Teeth Fixed But Dental Insurance Isn't

I blogged recently on a shocking case where a man lost his eyesight because of a infected molar. That situation highlighted the plight of the working poor; dental insurance is just not affordable, and the procedures to save an infected tooth (usually a root canal with a filling and a crown) are extremely expensive. This is true across North America; while Canada has "socialized" medical care, dental care has been left to the "free" market, just as it has in the US.

This approach has not worked in the favour of the poor or those lacking insurance. Prices have risen steadily for dental care of all kinds. In fact, while my own teeth are very healthy, I find that even routine dental care such as cleanings are not fully covered by my insurance, because my dentist charges more than the insurance coverage. Given that my family has very good dental insurance, I can only wonder what happens for those with less generous plans. Do they skip cleanings? Do they end up losing teeth?

Here's a good news story, at least for one poor man who got his teeth fixed and didn't have to pay a dime. Jason Jones had only 4 teeth left in his mouth, even though he was only 25. After years of dental neglect because he couldn't afford it, most of his teeth had been removed. An emergency extraction is the only procedure that can be covered by the provincial medical plan; no preventative care of any kind is paid for.

As a low income earner, Jason couldn't afford to take care of his teeth. He looked like an old man because of his facial profile after so many extractions; when teeth are pulled, the bone that holds them also shrinks. The chin swings up and the cheeks sag. The upper and lower lips cave in. Eventually, there can be little to accommodate future dentures or dental implants. Not that most of us could afford implants; each is about $4,000 Canadian.

Due to the generosity of strangers, Jones went from a relatively unattractive, prematurely aged man, to a handsome young man again. All because of a new set of choppers.  

Jones was lucky. His story was profiled in a national newspaper, and a number of people quickly moved into action to help him. Dr Raj Singh of Markham, Ontario, offered to take care of Jones' dental problems at no cost. Singh has provided over $10,000 Canadian in services so far, and Jones will need more. Dentures for Jones were donated by Ernie Molnar of Crown-Tech Dental Laboratories. The price tag for Jones' winning smile will likely total well over $20,000 Canadian. But that's not all that happened: In addition, Jones was offered an apprenticeship position with the Boilermaker's Union, which puts him on the track to a trade, and gets him off the low income treadmill. It will also get him a dental insurance plan.

Jones personal good fortune will not address the issue of millions of others who are losing their teeth to decay because they can't afford either insurance or dental care. According to Dr. Peter Cooney, who is Canada's chief dentist, as many as 20 percent of Canadians struggle to pay for any kind of dental care. Numbers are likely similar in the US.

Given that Canada and the US are part of the G8 -- rich countries who influence the world -- it is criminal that citizens in our countries are being made to live like third world inhabitants. You'd think we'd be more sharing of our riches, at home if not abroad, and would provide good basic insurance for all who live in our countries. Instead, we blame the poor people for being poor, and assume that anyone could decide to get out of poverty. Jones' story shows how an intelligent and gregarious young man could be held back by the simplest thing of all -- his looks because of his teeth.

Don't let the cost of dental care or insurance put you behind the eight ball. Jones found that he couldn't get any kind of work except for the lowest paying jobs, because of the impact that losing his teeth had on his appearance. So, take care! Check out our site's information on dental insurance, and dental savings plans. While a dental savings plan is not insurance, it can help you get a lower price for that cleaning; if it helps you to pay for better care of your teeth, it's well worth the investment.  

Monique L. Attinger 

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