Photo Illustration by Megan Bender

Humboldt Lacks Medi-Cal Resources

When dentists don't take MediCal, it forces individuals to travel to seek treatment.

When dentists don’t take Medi-Cal, it forces individuals to travel to seek treatment

For any students dealing with dental issues while attending Humboldt State, I suggest you plan out time to take off from your courses and work to go home and have it dealt with. The sad truth is that the proper resources don’t exist in Humboldt County, and traveling great distances to receive medical attention isn’t actually that uncommon.

When I was 11, I ran face-first into a pole and broke my front tooth in half. Followed by days of crying and constant mirror checks, I would switch between laughing at how stupid I felt I looked to uncontrollable sobbing. I couldn’t eat anything cold or my whole face would be met with a violent sensitive reaction. The only option I had as a self-conscious 11-year-old was to replace the broken tooth with a filling and hope it looked as normal as possible, so that’s what I did.

While the sensitivity eventually subsided, a year later the filling fell out. Again, I was hit with overwhelming sensitivity and due to my being a pre-teen, I was also terribly embarrassed. Every time the filling fell out after, it would be remade. I figured it was time to find a permanent fix and my dentist told me I would eventually need a veneer.

Veneers are what Instagram models and celebrities have on their teeth to make them look like perfect pearls. Basically, it’s a thin layer of material that’s placed directly over the tooth and protects the natural tooth’s surface, making your smile flawless.

“The sad truth is that the proper resources don’t exist in Humboldt County, and traveling great distances to receive medical attention isn’t actually that uncommon.”

I was scheduled to receive a single veneer. This is because I only needed one tooth fixed, but in large part because they are terribly expensive. I was told that getting just one was risky, as it has to be perfectly engineered to match the rest of my teeth. I was willing to take the risk.

This past semester I was hit with that same violent sensitive feeling in my tooth but the filling hadn’t fallen out. It seemed that the filling was slowly deteriorating and I began to feel it everyday. The tooth slowly turned a different shade and began to chip away. I knew that I was going to need an even better permanent fix. This meant looking at getting a full set of veneers.

My normal dentist and physician are five hours away. Not a horrible distance, but not next door. I knew for this procedure I would have to leave and miss some days of school, but I wanted to explore my options first.

I went to the campus health center to see if they could help me with my sensitivity or lead me in the right direction to begin services with a local dentist. I was met with two nurses that seemed disappointed to tell me that the center couldn’t help much with dental issues. They prescribed me a numbing cream and gave me a list of local dentists.

Of the local dentists, only one took Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program. This was disheartening as it was my only insurance but I made an appointment anyway. The facility was called the Open Door Clinic Dental and was located in Eureka.

The appointment was short and they told me I needed a root canal. Unfortunately, the clinic doesn’t provide the procedure and they gave me another list of dentists, more specifically endodontists, that could help me. As I called around, I realized that none of the dentists listed accepted Medi-Cal either and I was faced with the reality that I was going to have to travel back home to seek treatment.

While I understand that Eureka, Arcata and McKinleyville are small, I think there should be more medical professionals that accept Medi-Cal in Humboldt County.

Medi-Cal is a free state program. It’s what you sign up for if you can’t afford other insurances. Because it’s a state program you’d think it’d be more widely accepted, but it seems to be the other way around. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

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