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Why is he out of work?
Jason Jones is a natural for a sales job.
Trouble is, many people can't see past his mouth. Painful rot forced him to pull almost all of his teeth. This is the state of dental care for our working poor
February 10, 2007
Jason Jones is 25 years old, and nearly all his teeth are missing.
Decayed to the bone, his nerves exposed, the years of endless pain led Jones to seek the removal of his teeth, using his wife's entire savings to pay the oral surgeon's
TONY BOCK/TORONTO STAR
Acute pain from rotting teeth was affecting Jason Jones’ performance - so he job had them removed. It’ all he can afford for now, because there’ no public dental s s insurance for full-time, low-income workers in Ontario.
The reason Jones lost his teeth is simple: he is poor. There is no public dental insurance for the working poor in
Ontario, and only partial coverage for those on social assistance, meaning the government will pay for a few emergencies, such as tooth extraction, but not to prevent them from rotting in the first place.
Two months after the surgery, Jones's appearance is startling –he has the wide eyes of youth and the gaunt jaw of an elderly man. And worse, he is still in pain. The surgeon left in his two bottom front teeth, saying they would be anchors for his false teeth, but they are rotten and feel like shards of broken glass poking into his gums.
A dentist at a low-cost clinic quoted him $2,150 for the final two extractions, tooth posts and dentures, far out of his price range, but he is hoping to find a new job and save enough money.
For now, he is learning to eat only soft foods. "I maybe eat one meal a day. I can eat chicken, if I cook it just right. I chew it with my fingers in a way. Sandwiches, I can eat. Peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I can chew them with my tongue," he says.
The lack of dental coverage means those with little money have been shut out of the preventive care that leads to healthy teeth. No one knows how many go without dental benefits but nearly 900,000
Ontarians survive on low incomes, meaning they are either on social assistance or working in low-paying jobs.
Medically, dental disease is associated with diabetes, heart conditions, infections and diminished health. Economically, it lessens the odds of finding a job, or job advancement.
WAR ON POVERTY
Part of an ongoing series about the plight of Canada's needy and possible reforms
Since reporter Moira Welsh first wrote about Jason
Jones - a young unemployed man who cannot afford the extensive dental work he needs -- many readers have contacted the Star with offers of help. In this Star video, Jason talks about pain, poverty -- and hope.
Medical practitioners who work with the poor say the impact is extreme.
Minor tooth problems turn into decay, which can develop into abscesses and require extraction. One doctor described a beautiful woman with a
TheStar.com - News - Why is he out of work? low income with gaping holes in her teeth. A nurse said patients with minor dental problems will watch their teeth blacken in a decade if they do not receive treatment.
Toronto Public Health operates 13 free dental clinics for low-income children and seniors, and there are several other clinics that offer lower fee services to residents of all ages. But, the city's chief dentist, Dr.
Hazel Stewart, says waiting lists are months long and for most working poor adults, affordable dental care is unattainable.
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Here, reporter Moira
Welsh talks about her
Saturday Star special on dental benefits and the working poor -the latest instalment in the Star's continuing series War
"I get calls from people who are trying to go for a job interview. They