Casey Knight: Low-income people need dental coverage, too


The lack of adult dental coverage among much of Maine’s workforce contributes to systemic racism. These immigrants and lower income families are worthy of holistic, inclusive health care.

As a social worker, I have had clients affected by the lack of dental coverage. One client lost her teeth to devastating abuse in a refugee camp. Lost in a complex system with insufficient dental coverage, she is ridiculed for mispronunciation of English words, ashamed of scars of her survival. Her stomach hurts because she cannot chew. She wants people to see her for her resilience; people grimace at her smile. She deserves better.

Another client was denied dentures as considered not being medically necessary, yet they were deemed necessary by mental health providers. Her face concave in the absence of teeth, looking 30 years older; her husband finding her less attractive; her teeth unhealthy and missing because of years without dental services; she attempted suicide due to self loathing.

Both of these women are from Africa, which illustrates that the lack of adult dental coverage contributes to systemic racism and affects a disproportionate number of people who are Black. As teeth become painful, healthy food becomes difficult to chew; this leads to an increased amount of unhealthy, higher-caloric, and nutrient-deficient food being consumed.

The state is trading dental care for diabetes.

Adult dental coverage is essential. It can save lives and state funds, and the lack of coverage for Maine’s low income people contributes to systemic racism.

Casey Knight, Auburn


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