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Tooth Decay Prompts Felony Child Neglect Charge

By May 8, 2009

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According to the Herald-Tribune a Palmetto, Florida woman was charged with child neglect after authorities say she did not seek dental treatment for her daughters severe tooth decay.

The mother, Tamika S. White, apparently did take her daughter to see a dentist. The dentist diagnosed White's little girl with baby bottle tooth decay and referred the child to see a specialist for further treatment. Where is the crime you ask? After White was informed that her Medicaid coverage would not pay for the necessary treatment her daughter desperately needed, she refused to seek money for treatment through child-support payments from the child's father or locate a dentist or specialist that would accept her Medicaid coverage. Reports suggest the child suffered from pain associated with the tooth decay for over a year. The age of the child was not disclosed. Tamika S. White was subsequently arrested May 6, 2009 on a felony neglect charge.

I support the fact that the mother of this child is being held responsible for obviously neglecting her daughters teeth. Perhaps she was under the assumption that her daughters baby teeth are not important, considering they will fall out and be replaced with pristine, new adult teeth. Tooth decay is painful regardless of age, but what scares me is the similarity between this story and the story of Deamonte Driver. Untreated tooth decay may lead to more serious infections and, in the case of Deamonte Driver, could result in death. What is the common denominator between the two stories? Apparently it is very difficult to find a dentist that accepts Medicaid.

What are your thoughts?

Comments
May 8, 2009 at 6:04 pm
(1) Pam says:

Sounds like the mother felt like she had no options, and perhaps she was uninformed about the importance of dental care for a young child. The system is broken if Medicare or CHIP isn’t paying for basic dental care for kids at or below the poverty line. The father, obviously not supporting the child, might not have had funds for a specialist, and may have been unaware of the problem or its impact on the kid’s health and future. The parents may have felt hopeless. Why didn’t someone intervene, before the mom was charged with neglect?

May 9, 2009 at 1:06 am
(2) renee says:

I think the system itself causes some of the problem it is suppossed to prevent. When people hear of a case like this they become afraid to take their child to a dentist when they have a cavity for fear they will be arrested or have their children taken away, then the problem grows worse.

May 9, 2009 at 7:24 am
(3) Trisha says:

There are too many question marks here. You’ve mentioned that she didn’t seek resources, but the chances are excellent she had no understanding of how to do that. Health literacy is the big question mark, especially in lower income populations. Someone in the dentist’s office or even her social worker should have explained her options to her. If those options were explained and she still didn’t take care of it? Then yes, an arrest was probably called for.

May 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm
(4) Angela says:

I agree that the mother probably didn’t know she had other options. When she was denied coverage, she may have thought it was a shut case.

She probably did not have the resources to find other options. Getting the father to pay? If he wasn’t paying child support to begin with she may have felt that was another dead end, if she even knew where to start to begin with.

This isn’t to excuse her actions, but only to point out that it is tough to navigate the system, even for those of us who know our way around. Instead of criminalizing this mother, we should make it easier for parents to find the resources they need.

May 11, 2009 at 3:38 pm
(5) Susan Adcox says:

A parent who allows a child to be in pain for a year without taking further steps should be arrested. It is tough to navigate the system, but if the mother had put up enough of a fuss, I am sure she could have gotten help for her child.

May 12, 2009 at 10:50 pm
(6) Jackie says:

Wow. I’m with Susan on this one. How does a parent let a child suffer like that for a YEAR? I don’t know anything more than what you’ve posted here, but it makes me wonder what else those parents ignored…

May 13, 2009 at 8:46 pm
(7) John Barremore says:

I’m in total opposition to the action taken. Separating the child from its mother is by far the greater abuse here.

Sure I think a child should have adequate care, but to take a child from its mother and put the mom in jail just because she couldn’t afford dental care is outrageous and I can barely believe that other commenters and the author support this charade of justice.

America has given away parental rights and is quickly descending into a communist regime from which it will never return.

I am disgusted.

June 16, 2009 at 2:46 pm
(8) Susan says:

I work in a dental office as a Office Manager and there have been many times when my Dentist here has done “Pro-Bono” work. If this mother had her child seen in my office and we could not provide assistance I would have provided them options. If I couldn’t then I would have done research and made appointments for them in an office that will utilize what resources they have. It is not acceptable to allow any child to be in pain. It is not up to them to take care of themselves. If your going to have children then you accept the full responsibility for them. You can’t just take care of them when that parent feels like it. It’s like being a little pregnant, there is no such thing. If you are not going to take care of them, then give them to someone who will. We as a society allow others to have children and stand by while they live off of the government. It’s time we make them responsible for thier lives and who they bring into it. Hasn’t anyone heard “If you play you might pay?” If you can play with the big dogs and cannot take care of your children then stay on the porch and don’t have them. This is how I feel being a mother of three. This is however just “MY” opinion.

June 27, 2010 at 6:04 pm
(9) Toronto Dentist in Etobicoke says:

This kind of neglect probably goes on all the time. It hardly ever reaches the news though.

No easy answers. Give away free dentistry and they’ll be lining up outside your door. Throw mom in jail to teach her a lesson? Will that help her financial situation in any way? Take her child away? I don’t even want to go there.

I like what Susan did. It’s the Starfish Approach – her dental office “made a difference for this one.”

Joe Bulger DDS
Visit my dental blog – Toronto Dentist Smile Blog

August 27, 2010 at 6:11 pm
(10) Toronto Dentists Etobicoke says:

I hate to think the mother was making her child suffer as a result of emotional issues with her ex-husband. Why refuse support payments and then neglect the child?

Joe :D

December 1, 2010 at 7:17 pm
(11) maclay insurance says:

Could be the greatest thing I read ever!!!

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