oral health

$5 Per Tooth Extractions Draw Those Without Affordable Dental Care

Oct 3, 2017
Marissanne Lewis-Thompson/KRCU

After 20 years of selling and using meth, 38-year-old Andy Moss turned his life around. He got off drugs and got a good job. Next step: he wanted to fix his teeth, which had disintegrated, leaving nerves exposed.

cc/danjo paluska

In the current debates over health care, one topic rarely gets mentioned: dental health benefits. That’s because dental health has historically been separated from the rest of medicine. But today, that separation leaves many Americans with no way to prevent or treat debilitating dental health problems.

Author Mary Otto tells the story of the rampant disparities in dental health in the United States and how those play into other disparities of race, class and income in her new book, Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America.


Bram Sable-Smith / KBIA/Side Effects Public Media

Earlier this year, 69-year-old Aneita McCloskey needed her two front teeth filed down and capped.

“They were kind of worn down and they were also getting little tears and cavities,” she recalls.

Without dental insurance, McCloskey is on the hook for the full $2,400 cost of the procedure. She was given 18 months to pay it before she gets charged interest. That’ll be hard to do on her fixed income.

In years past she would have had to wait to see the dentist again until she could afford it.

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Weeks before school started last week in the Kansas City suburb of Olathe, Kansas, the town’s school district began its annual effort to get low-income students signed up for dental checkups. Each year, when parents register at the elementary schools that serve the district’s poorest students, they are asked whether their children have a dentist. “And if they say no, we say, ‘We have a program in our school—a dentist is coming to our school this year,’” explains health services director Cynthia Galemore.

Michael McFadden

Six-year old Jason Green squirms in a dental chair at a clinic in Sodus, New York while a hygienist probes his mouth with an unusual instrument. It looks like an electric toothbrush, but it is a camera and it’s capturing images that allow Jason’s dentist to inspect his teeth in detail--from 30 miles away. The dentist, Dr. Sean McClaren, practices at the Eastman Institute for Oral Health in Rochester, NY, but he sees several patients a week in this rural community, via a secure internet connection and a video call.

Feds Say It's Time To Cut Back On Fluoride In Drinking Water

Apr 28, 2015

Federal health officials Monday changed the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water for the first time since 1962, cutting by almost half the maximum amount of fluoride that should be added to drinking supplies.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommended 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water instead of the long-standing range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.

Dentists see patients at a free dental care event sponsored by the Indiana Dental Association. More than 1200 people attended, many of whom hadn't seen a dentist in years.
Jake Harper

Antionette Salifou is a school bus driver in Indianapolis. She recently went to a dentist because of a pain in her mouth. She was told she needed a root canal, and along with the other care she needed, it was going to cost $2000 -- way more than she can afford, since she doesn't have insurance to cover it. 

“It’s just hard to fit in there with paying bills and everything," she said.

Salifou’s problem is not uncommon. About one in three Americans lacks dental insurance, and those that have it still may not be getting the care they need.