Dental care cost too high for NH residents with bad teeth

Curtis Cole, of Rochester, NH
Besides the pain, it would change my life to get this fixed. People look at you differently when you have bad teeth. Plus, it would be great to be able to sleep again, to eat what I want, to be free of pain.

“So, I let it go and my teeth kept getting worse and worse,” said Cole, who is now a stay-at-home dad who takes care of his 2-year-old daughter, Mariah. “Eight months ago, I was in another accident, and I was hit squarely in the mouth. The pain was excruciating. I have Medicaid and my wife works and does have insurance, but we cannot afford to add me. Dental costs are not covered anyway and we could not afford it.”

For many people, basic dental care is simply out of reach. 

Special insurance riders are needed before dentist visits will be covered by Medicaid. Many people can’t afford the cost, or have no health insurance at all. Medicaid, intended to help people without sufficient means, only carries a dental benefit for children, not for adults. Even many people who have dental insurance through their jobs can’t afford to pay the portion they must out of pocket for expensive procedures such as braces, implants and crowns.

Struggling to find affordable dental care creates problems for New Hampshire residents

Curtis Cole of Rochester enters Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth to get three teeth pulled. It’s just the beginning of the care he needs.

Deb Cram, Portsmouth Herald

Brittney Ward, a general dentist at Core services for Exeter Hospital, said a ballpark cost for services for people without insurance is likely in the area of $6,000.

“If surgical removal of the teeth are needed, it could be about $300 per tooth, depending on the dentist’s fees,” Ward said. “Then dentures could run $1,300 to $2,000 each for upper and lower dentures.

As a result, adults can be left with no access to a dentist. Many suffer through severe tooth pain, gum disease and worse.

Serious oral disease can lead to other health problems, and can even cause death from untreated infected tooth and gum diseases.

“It can lead to abscesses that can spread from the mouth into the neck and head,”  Ward said. “People have died from untreated infections that turned septic,”

The ultimate answer for Cole, a Rochester resident, is to have all his teeth removed, and to be fitted for dentures. Dentists have told him his teeth cannot be saved. He is praying to find a way to make that happen. Cole thought he had found a solution when he went to a mobile van operated by Greater Seacoast Community Health

After the use of antibiotics, Cole said, he was finally free from infection and had three of his worst teeth pulled. He asked to have all his teeth pulled and said he has no real answer why they only pulled three.

Curtis Cole shows off a few teeth in need
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