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Out of Teeth, Out of Mind

Judging a Nation by Its Dental Plan


I have one argument that Rush Limbaugh couldn’t possibly argue against: At least the British homeless, under the National Health Service, have teeth.

We’re so different here that even though we passed a “comprehensive health care bill’” to ensure that everyone could buy health insurance, it didn’t include eyesight nor dental care—both of which are only available to the highest bidder. Even then, if you look at the new system of “health care’” created in America, you will find that you aren’t getting anything for your money. Case in point: deductibles. This means that no matter what you pay for your health care, you will have to make out-of-pocket payments before the “insurance” kicks in.

This can be anywhere from $250 to $5,000 in deductions (like in auto insurance). So, in the end, you will pay some $4,000 per year in premiums (businesses are paying less and less of their “share”) per year, and then, on top of that, you will have to pay up to $5,000 in expenses, before your insurance kicks in. But your insurance won’t really kick in until way past that amount, because the “insurer” will only cover some 40 to 50 percent (depending on your plan) until the cost becomes catastrophic (around $10,000 and up). Buying a mere $10,000 worth of medical coverage will entitle you to approximately a tongue depressor. So not only is the new insurance requirement Swiss cheese, it’s rotten Swiss Cheese—good enough for the crows and pigeons, but not the more elegant birds.

My point is simple. England (which was long ridiculed, ironically, for the condition of its citizenry’s teeth) shows more responsibility towards its citizens than the United States does. I doubt that you will find anywhere in Europe the number of toothless people that you can find here in America, if you look for them. And having good teeth has plenty to do with good health generally. N the most basic level, if your teeth deteriorate so you can’t eat well, chances are your health will deteriorate as well.

Here’s another issue regarding teeth. I read Victor Hugo’s 1862 classic Les Misérables some years ago, and the mother of one of the main characters, the mother of the young girl, at one point sold her two front teeth in order to pay for her daughter’s well-being. She also suffered a depression from no longer being beautiful, and thus not able to marry a man of stature, because she no longer had a full mouth. Her loss of self-esteem contributed to her eventual demise. Over the years, America, in its schools and other programming (advertisements, etc.) has been making it clear that you are only as good as your teeth. Those without them don’t even get mentioned, unless it’s an ad for denture cream.

So there is a certain amount of demoralizing going on in America that most people don’t usually recognize: the disenfranchisement of those without teeth, and the concept that without teeth, you shouldn’t even show yourself. This is an American way of making people useless. Or at the very least devalued. The toothless ones may participate, if at all, only in the lowest echelons. If you look at the homeless population in America, you will notice a distinct correlation between social status and the presence, or lack thereof, of teeth.

From what I’ve heard and understand, Rush has advocated for this kind of debasing of Americans. I know that Rush has a full set because he pays a bundle for it, or at least his producers don’t want him to look lowly so they fork out a bunch to ensure he has a full set of choppers. So there you have it: America is pathetic. Rush Limbaugh’s America (and unfortunately America’s health system overall) renders its people pathetic. That’s pathological.

Let me say one more thing. I work with disabled people, and last Saturday, the sister of one of my clients took me, my trainee, the client, and herself out to dinner. We ended up at an up-scale restaurant in downtown Santa Barbara. You know what bothered me the most about being there? The attitude that flowed through the air: “How dare you lower our status by bringing that loud-mouthed, blind, toothless woman into our establishment!!?” Without teeth, you can’t even show your face, much less, smile.

So the next time someone asserts that America has the best health care, please ask them if the poor have teeth.



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