As she lived her life and stepped into her career, Layla C. always prioritized taking care of herself and her teeth. However, as she prepared to have her first child, she learned firsthand how pregnancy can affect an expecting mother's oral health.
“I always took care of my teeth when I was younger. I always went to the dentist. I noticed though, when I started having kids, my teeth just started falling apart. It was so crazy...the whole tooth would fall out. I'm very self-conscious of it. It makes you feel not good about yourself."
Research shows that pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing certain dental conditions, but many don't discover this until it happens. Still, as a working single mom, Layla focused on providing for her kids.
“But, of course, When you become a parent, you neglect yourself a little bit more because you're just worried about your kids. So, when I went to go (to the dentist) and they told me the work I had to do, I was like, oh my god, it's never going to happen. No matter if it's through Medicaid or through work (insurance), it's expensive. When I went a couple years ago, when they told me the pricing of it, it just totally threw me. I can't afford it, so what do I do? The way they explained it to me, for one tooth, it was like $20,000.”
Being unable to fix or address the situation, Layla just continues to live with self-doubts that impact her at work and fear over what this could mean for the rest of her body.
“I even have dreams about losing all of them. Like I am so fearful of it. It affects you. I have a job where I have to be in front of people, I have to talk to people, and I notice myself...it bothers me. It makes me more in a shell. It affects your whole personality, the way you work, and everything. I’m sure when you don’t get your teeth fixed...I would think that bacteria and stuff, can't that kill you too sometimes?”
Her concerns aren’t imagined or unfounded. Oral bacteria and inflammation may contribute to a number of serious conditions, including endocarditis, heart disease, pregnancy and birth complications, and pneumonia. Still, Layla finds herself in the same position as thousands of Floridians enrolled in Medicaid and some private plans – dental care is unaffordable.
Given the chance, she’d ask elected officials:
“How come we can’t put more help towards this? To me, teeth are important. If (lawmakers) were able to help a little more, just on that part, I think as a mother, if you're able to get that fixed, mentally you’re going to feel a lot better with yourself. You're going to want to do things more, get better jobs, it’s going to motivate you.”
Florida’s leaders can help by providing a comprehensive dental benefit for adults enrolled in Medicaid. Medicaid’s limited benefit leaves many Floridians, including new moms, to make the choice between pulling teeth, living in pain, or taking on enormous amounts of medical debt. You can help by urging our officials to do the right thing for hardworking Floridians.