Curran M.

Reading, PA

Curran's story illustrates the barriers to getting good dental care and the critical role played by good coverage through Medicaid in turning his life around:

My name is Curran and I am 30 years old.  I grew up in a low-income family in Philadelphia with no access to dental care.  The first time I visited a dentist was when I was 11 years old.  The dentist I saw wanted me to get braces, but my family couldn’t afford them.  I didn’t go back to the dentist until I had Medicaid and ended up getting a full extraction of my teeth.  


I have struggled with substance abuse issues since I was 20 years old. Prior to the extraction I experienced great amounts of pain due to my teeth. At times the pain I felt from my failing teeth was so great, I sought out opiates to be able to deal with the pain.  I have tried to relieve pain caused by abscesses by popping them myself, not realizing at the time that this could have resulted in severe medical issues or death.  I have also extracted several of my own teeth myself.  


With Medicaid I was able to have all of my remaining teeth pulled and get a pair of dentures.  Now I am sober, working full time and pay for employer-based coverage, but it is highly possible that never would have happened without having Medicaid to seek treatment for my substance abuse issues, and my severe dental issues.


Perry County, PA

Greg's story shows how difficult it can be for those in rural areas to access a dentist and the importance of good oral health for self-esteem and finding employment:

After enrolling in Medicaid, Greg was excited to learn that he would have dental coverage for the first time in many years. Although he was only 22 years old, he had been on his own since his teenage years and hadn’t seen a dentist since elementary school. 


An unstable upbringing eventually led Greg to drug addiction, and without proper dental care as a child, Greg’s addiction further deteriorated his teeth and gums, in some places down to a pulp. “Sometimes the pain’s so bad, I can barely think about anything else, but I gotta get over it. Another Tylenol and a salt water wash and I just have to move on.”


While he’s overcome addiction, returned to the classroom and started a part-time job, improving his oral healthcare might be one of the biggest challenges. His current Medicaid plan gave him the option of seeing dentists in Philadelphia or Scranton.  “Philly’s two and a half hours from my house and a lot of tolls, which is rough when you don’t have your own car and barely have gas money to get to work and school.” He opted for Scranton, only 15 minutes closer but no tolls. The dentist only had spots on the waiting list, which might get him an appointment in six months time.

Greg wants to turn his life around. He says so himself.  He doesn’t smile a lot though. “No one wants to looks at my teeth,” he says. When he does finish up his education, he also hopes to have his teeth fixed: “I need to look the way a boss wants me to look: professional.”

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Here are just a few stories of the importance of dental coverage.  Want to tell us your dental story?   Tell us here: 

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