Dental health for inmates is becoming more important, but is it for the right reason?

Eleven inmates from Westchester County prison in New York are suing for 500 million dollars for their poor dental hygiene. The prisoners claim they have had cavities, tooth pain and bleeding gums in spite of brushing three times a day. Lead plaintiff Santiago Gomez says “The lack of flossing leads to temporary fillings and unnecessary procedures that leave them with pain the prison prescribed Motrin can’t relive.” Dental floss is banned from the prison because it “potentially can be used as a weapon,” Westchester’s Deputy Correction Commissioner Justin Pruyne. According to the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, inmates can attack other prisoners with dental floss and some have attempted to saw through jail bars with it, the Journal News reported. Pruyne said that Westchester prison system staff is investigating “whether there are products out there which would be appropriate in a custodial situation … maybe some sort of floss that breaks easily.” Gomez claims that other prisons allow dental floss, but R. Scott Chavez, vice president of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, told the Journal News, “I’ve never really seen dental floss being given to inmates.” He added: “its security trumps medical in many cases. This is one of those cases. Sometimes what dentists will tell inmates is to use thread from their clothing, to be used as a quasi-dental.

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