Over 50 advocates for oral health came out to the State House to voice their support for restoration of MassHealth adult dental benefits at the Joint Committee on Public Health hearings today. Donning red attire as a sign of support for Restoring Essential Dental, consumer advocates gave moving testimony about the serious consequences untreated oral health disease has had on their lives and the lives of loved ones.
Shirley Royster shared with the committee the serious health implications the lack of restorative oral health care has had for her. As a person living with HIV, maintaining a nutritious diet is an important part of her medication regimen. However, her health is now put in jeopardy as her dentures need re-fitting and, without MassHealth coverage, she has no way to pay for them. She can no longer eat apples and carrots, and has to cook her food to such a degree that most nutritional value is lost. She noted that unable to eat an apple a day, she can’t keep the doctor away. Her story captured how oral health can impact one’s overall health and brought to life the need for comprehensive oral health care to manage chronic diseases.
Diane, from Lynn, gave moving testimony on the impact these cuts have had on her own family. Diane’s daughter, a mother of three herself, no longer has access to oral health care services as a result of MassHealth cuts. Prior to cuts, she had teeth extracted, but now has no coverage to supply denture replacements. Diane remarked that she didn’t have any statistics to share, only her values. She wanted to make sure that her daughter had access to essential care and that when her grandchildren grew up, they would have access to oral health care too.
These personal stories and so many like them highlight just how essential oral health is to individuals’ overall health and wellbeing. We want to extend a big thank you to those who bravely testified and shared their personal experiences this morning. Their stories were an important reminder to legislators and all in attendance of the human impacts these benefit cuts have had and the critical need to restore oral health services for all in the Commonwealth.