Sinking my teeth into issues again...

It's so good to be back! So good, in fact, that I hate to start my return by grumbling about something. It is, however, something I feel strongly about.

For years there have been dental programs for kids. And it's an excellent, sensible thing to do. But there seems to be nothing nationally for seniors. When you really think about it, seniors with dental diseases are just as big an eventual drain on our health care system as are children with bad teeth.

With virtually all of the kid's dental programs, fillings are the mainstay of dental health. Makes sense, right? Good oral hygiene is essential for the intake of good nutrition. (Try eating an apple while enjoying a toothache...)

Consider, then, the 65+ year old senior who lives solely on Social Security, who gets a cavity. No one believes dental caries cure themselves, right? But neither Medicare nor Medicaid will cover fillings. If the cavity gets big enough, or deep enough, to cause a toothache, only then will the 'entitlement' for the aged kick into gear. The solution? Pull the tooth. Likewise, if a cusp or two on the tooth is broken, deny help until the tooth disintegrates enough to cause physical pain, then --- you guessed it --- pull it. Since regular dentists seldom do extractions anymore (although rebuilding the tooth is routine for them) the mandated extraction procedures are done by an orthodontist, who then bills Medicare/Medicaid for much more than the simple filling would cost.

Given the fact that people do lose teeth 'naturally' in the course of their lives, what happens when the absence of several teeth on one side, or side-by-side occurs? Chew on the other side. Ah...but what if the other side is in a similar condition because of all of this pull-don't-fill cost-ineffectiveness? Now it's time for sometimes thousands of dollars worth of major oral surgery all leading to dentures. Is this dumb, or WHAT?

A side effect of this astronomical stupidity is the reluctance of a lot of seniors to complain about ill-fitting Medicare/Medicaid dentures (since they see it as charity to begin with). They begin to deny themselves vitamin/nutrient rich foods and instead opt for soft foods which, while easier to chew/gum enough to swallow, don't provide the essential nutrients to maintain what would otherwise be a reasonably healthy body. Off to the doctor for various problems caused by less than optimal body health. This is striking among the 60+ demographic... a fat senior is very likely to be obese not because of laying about munching bonbons, but because spaghetti, macaroni, etc., is much cheaper and easier to eat than lean meats and fruits/vegetables. For them, low-calorie equals high expense, and even with foodstamps, it is not sustainable on a less-than-$1000 per month budget. (Especially in the midwest-to-east, where winter heating can easily take 1/4 of that amount.) Bad diet (frequently high in fat) equals heart disease, type 2 diabetes... many other ills the treatment for which will come out of YOUR tax dollars. Type 2 diabetes, linked primarily to diet, costs an enormous amount of Medicare/Medicaid dollars just in supplies - testing strips, needles - as well as daily insulin.

There needs to be more attention paid to senior dental health, and our legislators need to be made aware of just how the lack of it weighs down our tax dollars.


  1. I think, also, if people were treated for their ailments early, we wouldn't have as many drug addicted folks walking around. "just get rid of the pain!" Right!

  2. I absolutely agree with you on this one. Absolutely!