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For Want of a Toothbrush

Mar
1
2007

Deamonte Driver, a 12-year old boy from Prince George’s County, Maryland, had an infected tooth abscess that went untreated. Bacteria from the abscess spread to the boy’s brain and, in spite of emergency brain surgery, he died last Sunday.
It’s proof that our healthcare system is in shambles and it cost an innocent boy his life.
Or so some would have us believe.
This story in the Washington Post tells you all you need to know if you don’t care to know anything.
According to reporter Mary Otto, a routine $80 tooth extraction would have saved the kid. In truth, a $1 toothbrush and a parent who cared enough to make sure her child used it each day would have have saved him by making certain the problem never got to a point necessitating extraction.
It also would have saved the six teeth Ms. Otto says are rotting out of the head of Deamonte’s brother.
Nowhere in Ms. Otto’s story is the issue of parental responsibility raised. Nowhere in the story is there any hint as to the numerous options available to the Driver family that would have averted tragedy and that would not have cost much, if anything.
Dental hygiene schools, such as those at the University of Maryland’s Baltimore College of Dental Surgery and in Washington, DC at Howard University’s College of Dentistry have excellent programs and operate clinics where unusual or advanced treatment cases are desired because they afford students an opportunity to learn important skills by performing difficult or unusual treatments. Hygiene students (my wife is a dental hygienist) are required to perform a certain number of supervised cleanings of mouths in a variety of conditions in order to graduate. Many dentists and hygienists volunteer their time at free clinics in urban areas.
I don’t mean to minimize the pain Deamonte’s mother and family must be feeling at the loss of the young boy’s life, but I also can’t bring myself to overlook the real story here. It’s tough to get a kid to brush his teeth, and even more difficult to get them to go to the dentist from time to time, but it’s a parent’s job to see to it that they do. Last Sunday, a child died needlessly, and not because of any particular problem with the healthcare system, but because we have been conditioned to rely on the government to meet our most basic needs, and to absolve us of our most basic responsibilities.
A caseworker isn’t needed to teach a kid how to brush their teeth, and you don’t need insurance to buy a toothbrush. No matter. It’s the government’s fault, according to one advocate interviewed by Ms. Otto.
“I certainly hope the state agencies responsible for making sure these children have dental care take note so that Deamonte didn’t die in vain,” said Laurie Norris, a lawyer for the Baltimore-based Public Justice Center who tried to help the Driver family. “They know there is a problem, and they have not devoted adequate resources to solving it.”
The Drivers weren’t able to find a free dentist, but it’s good to see that they were able to find a free lawyer.

Share  Posted by Mike Spinney at 8:00 PM | Permalink

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