RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Teeth are not everything - unless they're rotten, spoiling your life and threatening your health... like Keith Johnson's bad teeth.
He found the courage to ask for help from 12 On Your Side. He believes his teeth are rotting because of medicines he takes.
Right now, his plea is for an oral surgeon to take on his case, repair the rot and get him dentures.
Just four years ago, Keith Johnson had a beaming smile. He was the family comedian, amusing people with his jokes and amazing others with his music ministry, back when he had nice teeth and loved to sing in public.
"I'm a little embarrassed to get up in the choir loft with my teeth looking the way they're looking," said Johnson.
His mouth hurts and he can only eat soft foods because of infected, jagged teeth.
"I'm ashamed," said Johnson. "I'm unable to control the saliva in my mouth... I can spit on you. That's embarrassing to have to wipe something off someone because a speck of food hit them, that's embarrassing."
Keith swallows 17 pills daily. A defibrillator in his chest, and medication for congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation keep him alive. The medicines are a blessing and a curse.
"He has spoken to a dentist, whose opinion is that one of these medicines is causing a lot of decay," said Dr. Lei Charlton, internal medicine.
Dr. Charlton has helped Keith with his medical challenges. She says he needs an oral surgeon now.
"He's got a lot of decay in the mouth," said Charlton. "We're unfortunately at risk for him having more heart problems on top of what he already has experienced."
"I need someone who does surgery that can extract the teeth and not cause me to bleed to death, and then I need to be set up for dentures," said Johnson.
Keith says dentists don't accept medicare and he can't qualify for the right type of medicaid.
"I only get $698 a month in disability. If I made $15 less, then I would probably be able to have medicaid help me. I just want to get my smile back."
He's a high-risk patient for a dentist, on a blood thinner and heart medicines and has no money. Keith says he's between a rock and a hard place.
We've put the word out for help and will bring you an update on this story on Thursday.