The Legislature’s Committee on Health and Human Services earlier this year voted unanimously in support of L.D. 1453, which required MaineCare to cover dental services for adults, but Gov. Janet Mills wouldn’t sign it. The issue will come up again this coming session.

Growing up in poverty and experiencing chronic homelessness from ages 16 to 23, I know the impacts of inadequate dental coverage. Because of loss of dental coverage while homeless, I ended up stuck wearing my top braces for five years and my bottoms for seven. This sustained dental neglect resulted in chronic gum infections that eventually led to an antibiotic-induced intestinal infection that almost killed me and resulted in thousands of dollars in medical bills following a four-day hospital stay.

Last year, I had to lose almost all my teeth at 39 years old, which required me to put nearly $6,000 on credit. Having access to credit is a privilege l didn’t gain until my late 30s, because when you’re poor there’s a huge barrier to getting credit. As a result of this borrowing, my bills are now so high I’m facing having to file for bankruptcy.

I’ve pulled myself from poverty into the working class, and these are the real and very lasting impacts to not having access to dental care. People in poverty are already under the stress of having basic needs such as food, housing, heat, transportation, childcare and more left unmet.

And those who’ve been lucky enough to pull out of that struggle to meeting just those basic needs, like l have, will inevitably continue to be pulled backward by the implications of the medical neglect that results by not having their dental health needs met.

Maine needs to pass the new bill to show the low-income people in our state that they matter.

Sass Linneken


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