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"People don’t have the money, they’re suffering" Cancer patient needs teeth repaired to better fight disease, but can’t afford dental care

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Posted at 6:00 AM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 07:06:52-04

BALTIMORE — Brian Waugh hasn’t seen a dentist in six years. His insurance doesn’t cover dental care and he can’t afford a huge bill, but he needs treatment now more than ever.

“I’m in a lot of pain from my cancer,” said Waugh.

Waugh was diagnosed last August with throat cancer. He recently finished radiation treatments and he's now waiting to hear if doctors got it all. In the meantime, he’s suffering from a side effect.

“I’m having problems chewing my food because of no teeth. And with my throat being so sore from the cancer, if I don’t chew, it makes it worse,” said Waugh.

Waugh lost his teeth as a result of the radiation treatments. And if he can’t eat to maintain his weight, he’s looking at other medical procedures and possible complications.

“They said at one point if I can’t get the food down, they’re going to put a feeding tube in me,” said Waugh.

He doesn’t want that, but without being able to afford care, he didn't have many options.

Waugh is living off his $250 monthly disability check. WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii helped him get his payments straightened out a few months ago, so he reached out to her again.

“I tried everybody and I figured you helped me once before, I figured what the hell, call you and see if you can help and you came through again,” said Waugh.

WMAR-2 News connected Waugh with the Maryland Foundation of Dentistry.

“That was on Wednesday. On Thursday, she interviewed me and on Friday they approved me,” said Waugh.

Marissa Tisch is the executive director of the organization.

“When a patient like Brian comes in, we’re following them from the start to the finish,” said Tisch.

The Foundation’s mission is to connect people who can’t afford dental care with dentists who provide treatment at no charge.

“The dentist provides the care in their private office and our organization, we partner with labs in the state of Maryland as well as throughout the country to get our lab bills at a discounted rate and then our organization pays the rest. So, the patients that come out of our programs pay absolutely nothing and it’s life-changing,” Tisch said.

These are Maryland adults with intellectual, physical, and developmental disabilities who are stuck in a cycle of needing help and not knowing where to go.

“The clientele that we see are already so isolated pre-COVID. They’re embarrassed to go out. They’re embarrassed to get a job. They want to seek employment, but they don’t have a smile and they’re missing teeth but then they come to us and they work with their dentist and it’s seamless,” said Tisch.

On Monday, Waugh was connected with a provider. Tisch said she's working to get him seen within the next few weeks. And she knows they can help more people, like Waugh, if more providers sign up.

“If every dentist in the state of Maryland could take one patient that would be incredible. One patient a year, that’s all we’re asking dentists to do,” said Tisch.

Tisch added that once a patient is matched with a dentist they typically see that provider for a year. And providers can choose how many patients they want to treat. They can also receive continuing education credits for participating.

If you're a provider and want to offer your services, click here for more information.

And if you're in need of assistance, click here for a link to the Foundation's application process.

If you don’t qualify for assistance through the foundation, click here to view the Maryland Oral Health Resource Guide for information on other low-cost and free dental providers.