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. It’s a sharp decrease from 15 years ago, when there was still a denture-making program in-house and Texas prison medical practitioners approved more than 1,000 costly dental prosthetics. California, the next-largest prison system, gives out a few thousand dentures in a typical year. “Generally speaking, someone with no teeth should be offered dentures,” said Dr. Jay Shulman, a Texas A&M adjunct dentistry professor who’s been an expert witness in multiple lawsuits over prison dental issues. “The community standard for dental care has not been applied to prisons.” More than two dozen toothless and nearly toothless prisoners unable to get dentures in contact with the Chronicle over the last year provided similar accounts: Sometimes, they had their teeth removed in prison with the false promise of dentures ahead. Other times they came in with dentures that broke. Since a policy change around 2003, once inmates find themselves toothless, there is often little the prison medical staff will do. In other corrections systems, dental care complaints have spilled over into lawsuits — but Texas prison officials in June said they had no immediate plans for change. “Ultimately, it is a medical decision,” said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel. https://www.chron.com/news/houston-...m_source=CMS Sharing Button&utm_medium=social Remember that, folks. Chewing is not a medical necessity.