Skip to comments.More toothless Texas inmates to get dentures, not just pureed food
Posted on 10/06/2018 2:01:55 AM PDT by Steve Schulin
The Texas prison system is changing its denture policy creating a dedicated denture clinic and hiring a prosthodontic specialist in an effort to ensure that more inmates get teeth.
The move to amp up dental care comes after a Houston Chronicle investigation found that toothless and nearly toothless inmates in Texas prisons were routinely being denied dentures and instead offered pureed food.
We want to see more dentures prescribed, said Dr. Lanette Linthicum, medical director for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Aside from the new policy proposal and clinic creation, the prison system plans to review denture-related grievances from the past year and re-evaluate those prisoners who filed complaints, hold training for unit dentists to clarify when dentures are necessary, and put together a review board to look at who needs dentures and who doesnt.
The changes some of which are already underway drew laudits from advocates, though some said the issue still speaks to the need for independent oversight of the prison system.
Its amazing, said Doug Smith of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition. But it shouldnt take this. I think TDCJ should want independent oversight as much as the community.
State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said he is glad the state responded correctly but expressed disappointment that refusal to give dentures had ever been a problem in the first place.
The state has a responsibility for the safety and welfare of the citizens we incarcerate, he said. I just expect them to provide proper care before I read about it in the Chronicle.
In 2016, prison medical providers approved giving out 71 dentures to a population of more than 149,000 inmates, many of whom are elderly, have a history of drug use or came from impoverished backgrounds with sub-par dental care.
A year-long Chronicle investigation included correspondence from more than two dozen prisoners who told of their failed efforts to get teeth, their difficulties chewing, and their reluctance to switch to a diet of pureed cafeteria food the alternative offered in most instances for those without teeth.
Some said theyd had all their teeth removed with the false promise of dentures to come. Others lost them over time, or came in with dentures that broke, only to learn that the prison system wouldnt agree to replace them. Some filed grievances and request forms, but were repeatedly denied sometimes by staffers citing policies no longer in place, other times by dentists claiming they couldnt get teeth unless they became underweight.
The long-standing policy at the time only allowed for dentures in situations of medical necessity and chewing didnt count. One medical director framed the blended diet as a better solution than the mastication and chewing process. It was, he said, a misunderstanding that teeth were necessary, an assertion some correctional dental specialists disagreed with.
Prison shouldnt be just about bare physical survival, Fred Cohen, a retired law professor who authored a book on Correctional Managed Health Care and the Law, said last month. Thats the outer fringes of how a civilized society would operate.
Although the prison system routinely revisits its policy, prison spokesman Jeremy Desel said over the summer that there were no changes expected at the time.
The current dental prosthetic policy was last reviewed in April of last year, he said then, and there are no plans for it to be reviewed again in the future.
But on Wednesday, that all changed. The systems three medical directors and three dental directors met to discuss possible changes, and came away with a series of plans.
We looked at our current policy on dental prosthetics and we made some changes, Linthicum said. I think the most significant change is that we went into more detail about what is a medical necessity.
The new policy isnt finished yet, but when asked whether the new language would expand the definition of medical necessity to be more expansive, Linthicum said, Thats sincerely our hope.
Though the prison system can implement the policy as soon as its done, the new language wont be formally adopted until December, when the Correctional Managed Health Care Committee holds its next quarterly meeting.
Before then, though, there are other changes the prisons can make without additional approval. Theyre already working on figuring out a site for a unit-based denture clinic, where prisoners could be fitted for prosthetics if unit dentists determine they qualify.
The department already has in place a similar system for some other medical needs, including glasses and prosthetic limbs.
To man the new clinic, the prison system will bring in a dentist who specializes in dentures, Linthicum said.
Officials will also put together two review boards one for the facilities that receive healthcare from the University of Texas Medical Branch and another for the facilities that receive it from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The boards will be made up of dentists who will evaluate the cases of prisoners in need of dentures.
One of the boards first tasks will be to evaluate all of the past years Step 2 grievances those inmate complaints that have escalated beyond an initial round of review to figure out which ones might be good candidates for dentures.
This might be a good idea—when they get out they will be better able to reintegrate into society. Would also help with self-esteem, which would also help them when they get out.
I also have sympathy for people who can’t afford dentistry. Prisoners aside, there are millions of decent folks who can’t afford to visit a dentist regularly and it can be disfiguring.
Dental insurance is a joke.
Dont give them dentures. Let them eat pureed food.
Meanwhile, Medicare does not cover dentures.
Guess seniors in TX who need teeth should commit a felony.
Give ‘em Nutraloaf.
Hah - One of the University of Houston debate teams back in the 1970s presented a case for their plan to ensure that every prisoner had a job when their prison term was up. I’ll never forget the ridicule that my teammate Geoff Ringer heaped on that plan: “Can’t get a job? Commit a crime!” the first time he faced them. I thought back to that day when I saw the Houston Chronicle front page story about dentures for prisoners. Geoff was a brilliant debater, and I’m delighted to see you raise this argument today. Thanks.
If you expect them to successfully re-enter normal society then dentures are a small cost.
dentures are advertised for under $500 locally.
Toothless applicants are likely to be rejected for nearly all jobs as American society places great emphasis on attractiveness and good teeth are big part of that.
Agree providing them is a good idea, but they should have to pay for them. Work it off in the prison shop.
And just how do people lose their teeth? DRUGS! Taxpayer-paid dentures, no matter how compassionate and likely to help the released convict secure employment afterwords, STILL means that criminal behavior is rewarded. HOW can you support this expenditure KNOWING that hard-working, law-abiding, taxpaying, drug-free citizens not only have to sacrifice whatever else they would buy for themselves with that extra tax money, have that money confiscated by the government for uses that they would not choose, and then not even have the luxury to have the government pay the bill for their OWN dentures? Whew. What a misplaced sense of compassion some of you have.
I have a friend who is monetarily poor. Ive been researching how to purchase reasonably priced dentures for him.
This is wrong! Let them eat baby food.
“Yo Rastus...you be sure to pull those dentures out before you visit me in my cell tonight. I don’t want no accidents.”
Boo freakin’ hoo. I don’t remember my grandfather ever having teeth. It wasn’t noticeable. He said dentures hurt. He ate regular food just fine. He was a mayor and a newspaper owner/editor so interacted with the public 24/7.
Take small bites.
They don’t serve pork chops in TX prisons after one inmate killed another with a bone. Stabbed him in the chest. Mr. b told them not to remove the bone but they did. The guy bled out right there.
Nonsense, I know many people with missing teeth who have never used drugs.......
You think all those Polident and drug implant commercials are targeted towards drug addicts?.......LOL!
Do they get hearing aids? They are way out of sight.
Do they get hearing aids? They are way out of sight.
Oops, that’s tooth implants......
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