Dentistry is not optional

“Cindy Williams, 48, took several buses from her home in Twentynine Palms to secure her place, arriving well before dawn. William hopes to see a dentist. She lost her job as a sales clerk last year, then saw her state Denti-Cal insurance cut just as she was about to have her two front teeth extracted and replaced. A dentist told her it would cost $2,000.

“Megan Jones, 23, of Santa Clarita works part time for a real estate title company. A high school graduate, she lives with her parents but cannot afford health insurance. She said she needs to have all four wisdom teeth extracted and a root canal. She called USC, and they said it would cost at least $300 per tooth. She considered seeing a dentist in Mexico, but said she would need at least $1,000 cash. She does not have good enough credit for a loan.

“Waiting nearby was Kathleen Weaver, 52, of Tujunga, a part-time crossing guard. Weaver said she injured her top teeth in a bicycle accident last year and needs them pulled and replaced with dentures. One tooth hurt so bad, she said, she pulled it herself at home, numbing herself with a few shots of liquor.

“‘If they had more of these [free clinics], there would be less strain on the social services system,’ Weaver said.

“Anthony Jackson, 71, of Los Angeles is a retired mail clerk and nurse who is covered by Medicare. But his glasses have not been replaced in three years and, like Williams and about 3 million low-income Californians, he lost his Denti-Cal coverage as the state cut services due to a massive budget deficit. Jackson arrived in a wheelchair with his in-home health services aide, who also needed to see a dentist.

“‘It’s kind of hard to ignore when somebody waits all night outside to see a dentist,’ said Don Manelli, one of the organizers with the Knoxville, Tenn.-based Remote Area Medical, the nonprofit running its second clinic in Los Angeles. He said of the effort: ‘It’s not a cure, but it’s a big band aid and people are hemorrhaging.'”
Thousands line up to get appointments at free health clinic, by Molly Hennessy-Fiske, LA Times, April 25, 2010

Nor is it a luxury. It’s a necessity, like all healthcare, and this should be as much of a government priority as the military. Why, oh why, in God’s name, is this so hard for my fellow citizens to understand? Are they that cruel and hardhearted? Have they never had a toothache?

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