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Teeth

by Nick Jacobs

On a flight to New York City, an article in the New York Times by Alex Berenson grabbed my attention. The obviousness of the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in this country comes through vividly as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that growing dental problems among U.S. citizens, untreated cavities, have reached a higher level than any time in the last 27 years.

Over 100 million Americans, nearly 30% of our population are without dental insurance and, another even more disconcerting revelation revealed in the article was that two children died of untreated cavities last year. This is a reversal of previous trends in dental health in our country. Mr Berenson further explored the trend of dental practices that do not accept Medicaid patients, have imposed significantly higher rates for their services and are now enjoying booming financial times. Their professional organizations have also fought the use of dental hygienists and other non dentists to provide basic care.

This trend leaves those uncovered individuals waiting in long lines for access to public dental clinics, clinics that are not always available in many areas. Clinics that many times have as much as a six month wait for patients to be seen.

Fifteen years ago I worked with a Catholic nun, the initial founder of a medical mission in Honduras, to help secure funding to enable her to provide health care through medical missions to the people of that country. Upon further investigation of their needs, we discovered that the single greatest medical problem faced by the native Hondurans was the lack of proper dental care, and our teams of mission oriented medical people pulled hundreds of teeth on each visit in order to literally save the lives of those at risk.

As the article stated, the right to have straight, white teeth in the United States among the middle class and above appears to be a God given expectation, but, once again, as we fall behind in care of our citizens in the industrialized world, we see the plight of those individuals who do not have their own brokers, political advocates, or financial safety nets falling deeper into a world of financial, physical and mental despair as they face more and more life threatening situations in a country that has enough wealth to literally take care of every man, woman and child hundreds of times over.

Where are our national priorities and our commitments to our fellow man? How much greed is there amongst us, the naked apes? Lately it has felt more and more like the Midlevel model of serfdom, the Asia caste system and the monarchy are being courted as a way of life in this phenomenal country.


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