Selected Beneficiary Comments from Center for Medicare Advocacy Petition Regarding Oral Health Care

“Dental care has been the most frustrating part of being a senior, and has the most to do with maintaining health in general.” – Michael Allen, California

“This is a very important issue, the ability to eat is vital to a person[‘s] health, at age 71 I needed new dentures and I had no coverage, they cost $4500.00 where is someone on Social Security supposed to get this kind of money? … These… need to be covered by Medicare.  Living on Social Security does not leave any extra money to cover these expenses and they are a vital part of health.” – Janie Anderson, CA

“Dental care is very important and often too expensive for seniors … Dental care is very important and not affordable for many.”  – Dorothy Anderson, MA

“Infections in the mouth will travel to other parts of the body.” – Ellen Asbell, PA

“Many of my health problems are made worse due to my inability to afford dental care.” – Ellene Ashe, CA

“Without good oral health care you can become very ill; it would be a blessing for me to have coverage.” – Janet Atkins, FL

“I was without dental insurance for 15 years. I almost lost all my teeth before CHAMPVA added dental. People who are older need more dental care, care that affects their overall health.” – Kathryn Bakston, GA

“My girlfriend had a terrible infection in her spine and it came from a bad tooth! She was in the hospital a week and then nursing rehab a month. If dental was included in Medicare, this might have been avoided.”  – Bruce Bauer, OR

“I am a senior who has lost four teeth so far because I can’t afford the dental care necessary to save them. This is not due to poor dental hygiene. It is due to medical issues including dry mouth, which causes decay. I have cleaning and fillings done at a low-income clinic but even their fee for anything else is too high … I and many other seniors who worked hard and paid taxes will continue losing teeth with no other option since even dentures aren’t covered. This affects our general health negatively. Please do something about this.” – Cheryl Biale, WA

“I had an infection at the end of a root canal that required endodontic surgery. Although this was an infection, and failure to treat it could result in sepsis and/or brain inflammation, the surgery was considered a dental issue because of the location of the infection (in the cavity left by a prior root canal procedure) and I was billed over $2000, none of which was covered by medicare. It took me two years to pay for this. Failure to treat dental issues results in a threat to health. Why are they exempted from senior health care?” – Judith Blair, NY

“I know someone who needs tooth extractions due to radiology to treat tongue cancer. He has Medicare only, so he lacks coverage to have the affected teeth extracted. Instead, the teeth are steadily falling out and he is inhaling them into his lungs.” – Jessica Bronson, DC

“I am a senior citizen, and cannot meet my monthly expenses as it is. Now I am told that my teeth are in seriously bad shape. I have to eat so I need food, but I also need to get my teeth fixed to eat. It makes no sense why Medicare does not cover medically critical oral health! Please help us!!! I am having a root canal tomorrow. Had I been able to afford preventative health care of my mouth, this would not have been necessary. I will have to go to an oral surgeon if the Endodontic specialist cannot successfully do the procedure due to calcification, etc. I have already had 3 teeth pulled. There is nothing in their place because I cannot afford to do anything to replace them!! There are so many people like me!! Medically necessary oral health care is critical and will save money in the long run.” – Beverly Burgos, VA

“My husband and I, both disabled, are unable to afford dental care on our monthly income. That means he has more sinus infections, and they are more severe. The same goes with earaches. I can attribute many of my headaches to TMJ, but without coverage, I can’t get treatment.” – Amy Burdette, KS

“I am a public Health Dental hygienist as well as a Medicare beneficiary. It is appalling that Medicare forgets that oral health is as important as general health! I see so many patients who are on Medicare and who need fillings, extractions, surgeries etc. but are on limited income and may have Medicaid which does not cover many dental services and the patient suffers and goes to ED where they only get meds to help with the pain! A waste of tax dollars when we could these wasted dollars to help our seniors to keep their mouth healthy and pain free. Oral health also impacts diabetes control, cardiovascular health, etc.” – Susan Camardese, MD

“I have broken teeth and crowns, and I cannot get them repaired because I cannot afford dental care. This is a serious problem as the sites could easily become infected and eating is difficult. It is absurd that Medicare will not cover oral health care. Teeth impact the entire body.” – Susan Dean, CO

“I am 65 and have been on Medicare disability due to TBI in 2001. I now have Sjogren’s disease and am losing teeth due to oral problems caused by this disease. Frequent infections in roots of my teeth are causing/contributing to systemic conditions because I cannot get dental care – it is being denied as ‘not medically necessary’ by Medicare. My SSD income is barely sufficient to cover my living expenses and medical copays. I cannot afford private dental insurance or pay for dental care myself.” – Judith DuBose, TN

“As it turns out I have had dental issues for many years. Extractions began because of chemotherapy and an immune disorder that causes very high calcium which deposited at the base of my lower teeth. Over the years all but two were removed and I wore a bridge. However, because of these problems I had a very hard time eating and lost 45 pounds in 2 years. It became clear that only implants and a bridge would work for me. So I needed to dip into my very limited savings to pay for the work. I was severely malnourished and am still trying to get my digestive system working normally again. I am 74 and have only social security and a small $92.00 monthly annuity. It is a struggle to pay for prescriptions, health insurance, utilities, rent, vision care, etc. I see so many seniors missing teeth. I believe that Oral health is health care and should be included in Medicare.” – Shirley Deininger, AZ

“If you have no teeth it is hard to eat! It is hard to eat a healthy diet when you have no teeth!” – Mercy Drake, AZ

“This is very true, really doesn’t make sense that Dental care is not considered health care…..I know, having broken a tooth, and fearing to got to dentist, thinking could not afford as a retiree. I did, but luckily it was during summer months when could afford not having to heat my home in the Northeast area of the country.” – Gail Fiske, VT

“I haven’t been to a dentist in seven years. I’m permanently disabled and on SSD and Medicare. I just can’t understand why I have no dental coverage under Medicare?! I was going to get to a dentist but then my medication copays, I’m on a plan from the state of NJ for low income folks, jumped by $350 this year!!!!!! So no dentist in my near future and my teeth are really starting to hurt, I think something is wrong…….. oh well.” – Matthew Franck, NJ

“I had to fight to get my Mom coverage when her mouth was infected-red, swollen and she had a fever. Medicare should cover all except cosmetic dental, but even cavities and gum problems lead to health problems overall So when they get bad enough it is no longer cosmetic, but a question of health.. Poor dental care contributes to heart disease and could lead to sepsis. You cannot separate one part of the body from the other. If dental care wasn’t important, why would dentists need to be doctors?” – Jane Freidel, PA

“I’m a senior citizen receiving S.S. less than what’s considered average. When the $ gets to me medicare has been deducted with the remainder I pay my medicare supplements and monthly expenses. It’s been years since I bought cloths only a couple of pairs of shoes that are comfortable to wear because of gouty arthritis. I can’t afford dental ins that will pay for several crowns that have worn out. So far those teeth missing their crowns haven’t required surgery. If medicare provided seniors help with expenses involved with the more expensive dental work then oral surgery could be avoided.” – J. Gerulski, TX

“I have learned the hard way just how important oral health care is! In 2008, I had a heart attack and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which by-the-way, was the cause of my heart attack! I was told then that I must visit my dentist at least every three months for dental care because the not-so-good teeth in my mouth at that time, were most likely contributing to my heart attack! So, I had two strikes against my health, hooray for me!! Oral Health Care is Health Care!” – Barbara Gibson, PA

“Because I am auto-immune non-specific, I had to have all my teeth pulled in 2006 or 2007 .. This IS NOT DENTAL, this MEDICAL!!! I also am totally disables and have been since 2003 and I am no3 62-1/2 yrs. old. I pay for all my own Medicase and my BC/BS premiums on the pennies I receive from working all my life and this is what I receive??? Where is the Justice and fairness is this?” – Cluadia Goggin, IL

“To carve out the mouth for exclusion is either ignorant or callous. The health of the mouth and the teeth and the roots of the teeth and the tissues of the mouth are all integral to the health of a person. The roots in the mouth actually correspond to the organs and systems in the body. Seniors, especially, are vulnerable to diseases and decay. Please help our seniors gain access to affordable dental and mouth care.” – Jo Greenwald, HI

“Two good friends of ours passed away recently because an infected tooth was not treated and the infection spread throughout their whole body and they died from complications caused by it. Mouth infections can cause endocarditis which my husband almost died of. Oral health needs to be taken care of immediately and should be an integral part of any health care plan. People have no idea how dangerous a mouth infection can be.” – Catherine Mitchell, NC