Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Young Boy Dies From An Abcessed Tooth

For Want of a Dentist:
Pr. George's Boy Dies After Bacteria From Tooth Spread to Brain
Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.


Some poor children have no dental coverage at all. Others travel three hours to find a dentist willing to take Medicaid patients and accept the incumbent paperwork. And some, including Deamonte's brother, get in for a tooth cleaning but have trouble securing an oral surgeon to fix deeper problems.

In spite of efforts to change the system, fewer than one in three children in Maryland's Medicaid program received any dental service at all in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

. . .The Driver children have never received routine dental attention, said their mother, Alyce Driver. The bakery, construction and home health-care jobs she has held have not provided insurance. The children's Medicaid coverage had temporarily lapsed at the time Deamonte was hospitalized. And even with Medicaid's promise of dental care, the problem, she said, was finding it.
This is the tragedy of our country's broken health care system. Young Deamonte is, unfortunately, not unique. The most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that the "percentage and the number of children (people under 18 years old)without health insurance increased between 2004 and 2005, from 10.8 percent to 11.2 percent and from 7.9 million to 8.3 million, respectively." The higher percentage of children without access to health insurance and health care will ensure a higher percentage of child mortality.

Even from something that starts as humbly as a toothache.

(Tip O' the Hat to John Scalzi)

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