University Student Suffers Due to Unaffordable Dental Care

Growing up I didn’t have the privilege of going to a dentist. My parents couldn’t afford it and my parent’s employers would never offer us dental coverage, nor would I ever qualify for help under a public program. Now, my oral hygiene is in poor health because I couldn’t afford dental care.

Editor’s note: Longtime Street Spirit contributor Robert L. Terrell is a journalism professor at Cal State University East Bay. Edgar Segura, one of Professor Terrell’s journalism students, wrote this important account of the hidden poverty many college students face — burdened by rising education costs, student loans, low-paying jobs and soaring medical costs.

 

by Edgar Segura

 

I made my first visit to the dentist last month, my very first. I had never been to the dentist or had a tooth cleaning until recently. But yes, my first time going to a dentist was May 2012. Of course, you can imagine I was very scared.

Growing up I didn’t have the privilege of going to a dentist. My parents couldn’t afford it and my parent’s employers would never offer us dental coverage, nor would I ever qualify for help under a public program to receive treatment for that.

I’m 24 years old now, and in less than six days, I’ll be having my graduation ceremony. I’ll be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. For me, it’s been a difficult struggle on multiple levels getting to this point.

For one, it’s been very painful having to study for an exam with an aching, fractured tooth. This happened very frequently to me during my undergrad years and to several of my teeth, too. It’s something I’ve had to hold back and keep to myself since I wasn’t sure how others would react to this news.

It is unfortunate, though an undeniable fact, that my oral hygiene is in poor health because I couldn’t afford dental care. My dentist is great and so are the staff there, but even she can’t reverse the damage of gum disease with the latest tools and techniques modern medicine can offer.

One thing l learned from my first visit is that I have a very serious condition of gum disease, but it is treatable. At best, this means I’m going to have eight extractions. Four of those are my wisdom teeth, while the other four are far from savable.

Next month, I’m scheduled for a consultation on these extractions, at which point I’ll have to come to a decision on the procedure. I’m anxious about this date and hesitant. It’s a heavy decision since the procedure is a debt I’ll have to carry in addition to my student loans — which I don’t have a means of paying back at the moment.

Had I received dental care at an earlier and younger age, my situation would be very different today. Art by Christa Occhiogrosso

 

My insurance doesn’t cover implants and at $2,000 a tooth, I’m going to need four of these. All this leaves me feeling bitter and upset. And helpless, especially knowing that this could have easily been prevented and much less painful.

Next month, I’m scheduled for a consultation on these extractions, at which point I’ll have to come to a decision on the procedure. I’m anxious about this date and hesitant. It’s a heavy decision since the procedure is a debt I’ll have to carry in addition to my student loans — which I don’t have a means of paying back at the moment.

My insurance doesn’t cover implants and at $2,000 a tooth, I’m going to need four of these. All this leaves me feeling bitter and upset. And helpless, especially knowing that this could have easily been prevented and much less painful.

Had I received dental care at an earlier and younger age, my situation would be very different today. Over the years, I have found myself moving from one part-time job to another trying to meet my expenses. But an hourly minimum wage makes it unbearably difficult to do so, much less to build savings and plan for my future.

Quite bluntly, I’m tired of pushing this around in my own thoughts, pretending that everything is okay when it is not. As we move further into the 21st century and with the presidential elections just around the corner, I would like to see dental care take equal precedence to health care in this country. I mean come on, it’s not like I’m asking for the world!

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