Increasing Access to Dental Care for Low-Income Children through Increased State Medicaid Dental Provider Reimbursements


Source: California Dental Association

Dental caries, or tooth decay, among children is steadily on the rise and now the most common chronic childhood disease in the United States (US).  This is especially the case among children from low-income families who are particularly vulnerable as they are less likely to see a dentist.  Dental caries can have a lasting effect on a child with permanent harm to oral health and overall general health as well as intellectual and social development.  Perhaps most alarming is the fact that dental caries is entirely preventable with proper dental care.

Children of low-income households often receive dental benefits through the federally supplemented and state fundedcaries family income chart Medicaid program.  However, access to a dentist for these children remains a barrier to their preventive care.  The majority of states report that most of their dentists treat few or no Medicaid patients.  In 2006, of children enrolled in Medicaid, only one in three received a dental service.  The majority of dental care in the US is provided by private dentists.  With Medicaid reimbursement rates often falling below operational costs, the private dentists site this as a primary reason for low participation.  State legislators must act now by increasing Medicaid dental provider reimbursement rates to cover their operational costs, at a minimum.  Six states have already acted resulting in an increase in dental provider Medicaid participation.  Encourage your state legislators to support this movement by increasing Medicaid dental provider reimbursement rates which will help provide access to proper dental care for all children in your state.


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2 Responses to “Increasing Access to Dental Care for Low-Income Children through Increased State Medicaid Dental Provider Reimbursements”

  1. ryomiyakawa Says:

    I am working in Detroit, MI. Wayne county is one of the few counties in Michigan where dental coverage does not exist for Medicaid. This year, American Academy of Pediatrics Michigan Chapter has placed emphasis on this issue, but as with many other disparities between Detroit and its suburbs, progress is not made. While it clearly requires legislation-level intervention, such decision needs to be supported by voters. A question remains how much parents value dental care access, and whether they will view this as an important legislative issue that they can make change.

  2. ericamckeonhanson Says:

    I agree completely with you, ryomiyakawa, regarding the need for parents to value dental care and access to appreciate the importance of this legislation. In the American Indian Reservation community where I work, we are currently beginning a dental caries intervention project implementing an oral health literacy program for parents/caregivers in the community. One of the goals of this program is to provide parents/caregivers with information on the health consequences of dental caries and why it is important to prevent. The current culture of our community is one that does not value oral health, especially among children’s “baby” teeth as they will eventually fall out and be replaced. There are many factors that contribute to the high rate of dental caries among low-income children and it will take multiple interventions to make a large impact. An increase in provider reimbursements addresses just one aspect of increasing access to care. If we address each factor one at a time while educating the public and legislators, we have the potential to truly make a difference in the lives of these low-income children.
    Thank you so much for your comment on my post!

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