Not a 'Medical Necessity': Texas Denies Dentures to Toothless Inmates

September 25, 2018

By Keri Blakinger

For the better part of four years, David Ford has not had much in the way of teeth.

When he first came to state prison, the Houston man had just enough molars to hold in place his partial dentures. But then he lost one tooth to a prison fight and the rest to a dentist.

Now, five years into his stay, Ford has no teeth at all — and no dentures. And, despite his best efforts and insistent requests, he’s been repeatedly denied them and told that teeth are not a medical necessity.

In the Texas prison system, toothless and nearly toothless inmates are routinely denied dentures and instead offered blended food — often regular cafeteria meals simply pureed. Sometimes they’re told they can’t get teeth unless they become underweight, at which point dentures might be considered a “medical necessity.” 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 to begin with.

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