I've been fortunate in requiring little more than routine dental work, such as cleaning, for the past 10 years, but I knew that was coming to an end when an upper plate had to be replaced.

I've been fortunate in requiring little more than routine dental work, such as cleaning, for the past 10 years, but I knew that was coming to an end when an upper plate had to be replaced.

Well-aware that all medical expenses had erupted skyward at more than twice the cost of living during that interval, my complaints had been limited to the post hygienist practice of having the friendly dentist show up, run gloved fingers around my gums for about 50 seconds, almost doubling the cost of the entire session, when it should have been part of the overall bill.

One would assume that a well-trained dental hygienist could decide whether the good doctor's attention was required, but that apparently was not her decision to make. But sticker shock really set in when I went to one of our local wholesale dental locations, promising excellent results for minimum cost.

Results have been excellent -- I am very happy with my new teeth -- but the cost was definitely far from minimum. I could have borrowed the money from their friendly affiliated bank loan company, at an interest rate approaching that of a payday lender, but decided to swallow hard, pay up and escape about $1,000 in interest.

In the meantime, half of the children in this country receive little or no dental care because their parents cannot afford it, nor do most of their parents, something that should shame every dental association in the country.

I'm aware of being somewhat insulated from rising medical expenses because of Medicare, plus the fact that my pre-retirement employer provided health insurance (but not dental), a defined-benefit pension plan, and pays some supplemental Medicare coverage. As a WWII veteran drawing disability payments, I also receive eyeglass and hearing-aid coverage, but unfortunately, not dental coverage.

President Lyndon Johnson, under whose administration Medicare and Medicaid coverage were secured, tried very hard to have dental coverage included, but dentists and their representatives screamed (and schemed) to the point he gave up until a later time, which has never come. We are lucky to now have Affordable Care legislation, which with all of its flaws, at least provides a template to work with in the future. If you have not read the March 4 issue of Time magazine, with the entire content devoted to our highest-cost medical care in the Western world, please do so; it's the best explanation I have ever seen.

I see little about these health problems on the TV news sources most Americans use these days, unless you count on Dr. Oz for physical health guidelines and Dr. Phil as a mental health counselor. Which is all the more reason to praise the reshaping of our own central Ohio daily paper, which not only provides more thorough news coverage into less space, with each section clearly labeled, so readers can focus on what they want to see. Health, welfare, electoral coverage, the state budget and, yes, even the sad state of dental health, have been major stories in the past year and should continue even more effectively under the new format. Even my favorite TV news source, CNN, cannot come close to this.

Both my wife and I like the cops-and-robbers shows such as NCIS, Mentalist, Body of Proof, plus Masterpiece Mystery, but I can't help wondering why autopsies have become such common fare when we worry about glimpses of nudity on the screen and see strategically placed covers adorning the lifelike corpses on the autopsy table (did you know construction of dummy corpses for TV appearances has become a growth industry in the past few years?)

It's a given that bullet wounds do not occur just in the head, chest and leg areas, and no portion of the body is covered up in a real-life autopsy. If we worry about corrupting youth from exposure to such scenes, please remember that most of them these days probably see more exposure of flesh than we adults do.

We're not asking The Dispatch to print the type of topless photo common to some European scandal sheets, but a little common sense might help television producers appeal to an even greater spectrum of viewers.

Guest columnist Bill McNutt is a Worthington resident. Email him at wmmcnutt@juno.com.