While 46 states offer some dental benefit to Medicaid-enrolled adults, only 32 cover services beyond emergency care, and only 15 offer a comprehensive benefit. Inadequate coverage of dental services for the adult Medicaid population, as well as a lack of access to Medicaid dental providers, present significant barriers for individuals to get needed oral health care. In turn, these coverage and access challenges often lead to high rates of dental disease, costly dental-related hospital visits, and missed work days for low-income adults.

As the Medicaid population expands in many states, Medicaid agencies, their contracted plans, and other oral health stakeholders have an opportunity to improve oral health care access and quality for low-income adults. To help states capitalize on this opportunity, the Center for Health Care Strategies launched Advancing Dental Access, Innovation, and Quality for Adult Medicaid Beneficiaries. This two-part project, supported by the DentaQuest Foundation, with additional funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides states with data, guidance, and connections to evidence-based strategies for advancing oral health care access in Medicaid. The project included:

  1. A national study of access to dental care among adult Medicaid beneficiaries, part of CHCS’ Faces of Medicaid series, including an analysis of individual states’ dental coverage offerings in Medicaid, and the impact of that coverage on oral health; and
  2. Technical assistance to support the DentaQuest Foundation’s national grantee network — which includes state coalitions, community-based organizations, state agencies, policy analysts, researchers, and other oral health stakeholders — in their efforts to advance comprehensive dental coverage and access for adults in Medicaid.

Lessons and resources generated through this initiative were shared broadly beyond the foundation’s grantee network to inform oral health stakeholders across the nation working to increase access to oral health care for adults in Medicaid.