A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Powerful WGBH Report on MassHealth Dental: "My teeth have literally fallen apart, crumbled."

Powerful WGBH Report on MassHealth Dental: "My teeth have literally fallen apart, crumbled."

July 30, 2013

This morning WGBH radio ran a story on the continued impact of the MassHealth adult dental cuts that were initiated in July 2010. Three years after most dental benefits were eliminated, we’ll see some progress. Fillings will be restored for all teeth, a change passed in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget that is likely to go into effect on January 1, 2014. As the story points out, this is great, but many individuals are still left without access to the basic services that they need to maintain their health. The story looks at two MassHealth recipients who's health is at risk due to limited dental benefits. Harriotte Hurie Ranvig is 67, blind, and lives in Somerville:

"I cannot chew on the right side of my mouth," she said. "Because there’s extracted teeth on the top and bottom on the right side in the molar area. So the teeth will not strike on that side. If I eat a carrot or something that’s big and hard, it slides in the grove between the teeth, and that’s not chewing!" ... "Dental health is an integral part in any human’s health," she said. "They’re not just little rocks in our mouth. They’re critical."

Joanne Jijon is 62 and lives in Worcester:

"My teeth have literally fallen apart, crumbled," Jijon said. ... Her teeth are in really bad shape. She’s missing several, and many of the remaining ones are misshapen and grey. She says at times they ache. "My teeth just gradually decayed," Jijon said. "Decay all the way to the point right into the gums. The whole tooth gone, except for like little pieces that might be stuck in the gum. My teeth are too bad to fix, so I have to get them all pulled now." MassHealth covers extractions, but not dentures, and Jijon says she can’t afford to pay for dentures herself. I asked her what she’ll do about food. "I’ll have to do what I have to do without teeth," she said.

Head over to WGBH to read the transcript or listen to the piece. -Courtney Chelo