Did you notice, when you watched the first Harry Potter movie, that all of the "evil" kids in the Slytherin house have particularly crooked teeth, while the "good" kids from Gryffindor all had bright white and perfectly aligned teeth? It's particularly apparent during the Quiddich match between the two houses. It really made me think about what kind of propaganda we're teaching our children about those who can afford dental care and those who cannot. Does evil spring exclusively from the poor? Does it develop because those who don't have wealth and status will go to any lengths to obtain those things? Are we to see poor kids with bad teeth as more crime-prone?
I was thinking today about the availability of dental care for the poorer members of our communities. The working poor often have no health care or dental care, while those who are unemployed and make their way with government assistance frequently rely on Medicaid for their health care, which covers an extremely narrow array of dental services.
While I was classified as disabled, I was on California's version of Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal. Years of living without any kind of health insurance left my teeth in a sad state, and I sought--while I still had coverage--to have my teeth cleaned and examined for what seemed to me to be critical problems, lest I begin losing my teeth at a relatively young age.
As it turns out, simple teeth cleanings are not covered under Medi-Cal. Nor are fillings or any other kind of preventive care. In fact, the only thing Medi-Cal covers is emergency tooth extraction. Further, if one's teeth are lost and must be replaced somehow in order to chew food, dentures are not covered. There is essentially no dental coverage whatsoever beyond the yanking of teeth that have become too painful to tolerate. In my city, there is a clinic that offers free dental care to the first few takers a few times per week, but again, only emergency tooth extraction is performed unless special dispensation is obtained ahead of time to have a tooth filled. A few other sliding-scale clinics are available in our area, but even the reduced rates for service are prohibitively high for many.
As a consequence of poverty, then, poorer children tend to have crooked, dirty teeth with complimentary spaces where the state or a free clinic has generously removed an offending tooth. How does this affect one's employability? How many other opportunities are lost as a result of this kind of discrimination?
Getting back to the Harry Potter example, I'm led to believe, then, that poorer kids are more likely to be evil. As a propaganda tool, it further divides the wealthier members of our communities from the poorer. It lends itself to the impression that our crooked-toothed citizens are less worthy of our respect or even our higher expectations by virtue of the condition of their teeth.
I took a quick look at The Affordable Care Act to see if "Obamacare" is expected to improve the availability of dental care for us, but the picture is rather muddy. I hope that plans offered to those who cannot afford care will also cover routine dental care. It's absurd that we should vilify those who cannot afford care and then withhold such care because the poor clearly don't deserve it, particularly if they should have inclinations toward criminal activity, an assumption that naturally arises from such films as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.