Caroline Michell has been waiting five years to get her teeth fixed.
Caroline Michell has been waiting five years to get her teeth fixed. Rob Barich

A sight of decay

CAROLINE Michell has not smiled in public for nearly three years.

Her rotten, disintegrating teeth cause her agony and have left her too embarrassed to open her mouth in front of strangers.

A condition which causes folic acid deficiency and the continual need for antibiotics has led to Miss Michell needing to have every one of her teeth pulled out — and every day she faces more pain as the nerve damage gets worse.

After seeing a Queensland Health dentist at Bundaberg Hospital in 2004, Miss Michell hoped her suffering would soon be over.

But five years down the line, the Gin Gin mum-of-three is still waiting for help, while her teeth crumble.

Miss Michell says she has just been told she could be waiting for another two years before she gets to the top of the public waiting list.

She said the discomfort meant she no longer enjoyed food, and has been restricted to soups and soft stews.

"Halfway through a meal, I am put off my food because it hurts so much to eat," Miss Michell said.

"(Teeth) are breaking off and chipping inside my mouth, and I’m getting a lot of infections."

Miss Michell used a rebate scheme through Queensland Health to cover the cost of a private dentist.

However, she was told that it would cost $1500 in out-of-pocket expenses to remove her teeth so that she can get dentures.

"My partner and I are full-time carers for our son (who has severe epilepsy and other serious medical conditions)," Miss Michell said.

"We just don’t have the money to do it."

Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay Health Service District Northern Cluster manager Beth Norton said there were high level demands for public dental services across the Wide Bay Health Service, but all patients that require urgent or emergency dental care are provided with treatment.

"If Ms Michell’s doctor genuinely believes her medical condition is being exacerbated by her dental condition, than he can contact the principal dentist in Bundaberg detailing her medical condition and how her oral health is impacting on this condition," Ms Norton said.

"The principal dentist will confer with her doctor to determine the appropriateness of providing Ms Michell with priority treatment over others waiting for dental treatment."

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