Blog: Barriers to Dental Care

Susie Angel
CTD staff

May 17, 2016

On February 19, 2016, Susie contributed comments to our advocacy team's presentation at a Providers' Alliance for Community Services of Texas (PACSTX) workshop on dental services. The following is an adaptation of her commentary.

In the past 25 years, I’ve seen 3 dentists. I was on my parents’ insurance for the first one, and he chose to let me pay him in $20 installments after being taken off their insurance. I saw him every 3 months, paying off one visit off right before the next appointment. Eventually, I needed more and more major work, which required me to be fully sedated. The expenses added up, while we continued the $20/month plan, I couldn’t pay him off in a timely manner. Hell, I’m still paying him 16 years after I quit going to him!

After dentist #1, I couldn't find any one else, so for 8 years, I just didn’t see a dentist. In 2008, I had to start looking again because of a bad tooth that needed to come out. I found a program that helps people on a low-income pay for dental care, but they insisted on knowing the income of the whole household. This really messed me up because I have 2 roommates, and our 3 incomes added together put me over the maximum income level allowed. I couldn't make them understand that this wasn’t fair. And let’s face it; many people with disabilities are in the same situation.

I did finally find a dentist who said he worked with people with disabilities all the time and could probably get me funding to see him. It seemed promising. He agreed that the tooth needed to be pulled and understood why I needed sedation, so he helped me apply for the funding. When I didn’t get it, my mom had to pay for the procedure.

I finally got a real break 2 years later when I started working for CTD. Executive Director Dennis Borel put me in contact with his dentist, who agreed to see me as a pro-bono case. I am quite happy with this provider and so incredibly grateful to Dennis; however, I hate the fact that dentist #3 has to work free and uses up favors to get an anesthesiologist to sedate me for major work.

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I feel bad that other people with disabilities won't get these opportunities. Between cost-prohibitive care, insufficient aid programs, and a lack of training among dentists for working with our population, the barriers to quality dental care for people with disabilities are staggering. Luck was a factor in my securing adequate dental care- but it shouldn't be.  

About Susie

A woman with red glasses smiles at the camera.Susie has an Associate's Degree in Communications from Austin Community College and a Bachelor's in Magazine Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She joined CTD as a VISTA in 2010 and joined the staff as a part-time employee in 2012. She edits and writes for the monthly e-newsletter, co-coordinates Pen 2 Paper, and heads up CTD's research department. Read Susie's full bio.

 

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