Emmitt McCoy loves to sink his teeth into food. Give him something to chew on and he’s a happy man.
But McCoy, 47, hasn’t had the pleasure of a good chew in several months. His dentures broke and, unable to afford a new set, McCoy has been relegated to soft foods, cut up for him by caregivers at his Miami-Dade County group home.
A vibrant man with a penchant for chatting, McCoy lives in a home for adults with mental disabilities. He attends a school program at the United Cerebral Palsy center in Miami and competes in Special Olympics events.
He smiles when he talks about hoping to one day own a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, and he sighs when he talks about missing half his teeth.
“I love to eat a lot,” said McCoy, who remains lean in spite of this.
He was having a meal last summer when his gums began to hurt.
“I kept feeling a sharp pain right here,” he said, pointing toward the back part of his mouth. “All of a sudden, they broke in half. That was the end of it.”
He had broken his top dentures. A replacement set would cost $800. McCoy and his caretakers tried to fix it with no luck.
“I went to the dentist and they tried ... but there was nothing else they could do,” he said.
Medicaid only covers one pair of dentures in a person’s lifetime. McCoy was upset after they broke, but the nurses said he takes great care of his set. Sometimes they just break.
Replacing McCoy’s dentures is important for his self-esteem, said Eileen Phelan, McCoy’s social worker who nominated him for Wish Book.
“He wants to look like other people,” she said. “He knows the difference.”
Two dentists work with the local United Cerebral Palsy center on a payment plan, but Phelan said Medicare and Medicaid cover very little of the costs.
Without his top dentures, McCoy has had to stick to small and soft foods.
He said he misses Cracker Jack and chicken wings.
A new set of dentures would help McCoy get back to his regular routine, and he would no longer have to rely on others to cut up his food for him.
But there’s another plus, beyond being able to eat his favorite foods again: McCoy is a bit of a ladies man, and wants his full set back
“I'm going to tell you the honest truth,” he said with a twinkle. “I like women who like me with my teeth in my mouth,” he said.