|Today, Medicaid and Medicare dental benefits are often limited, which means adults with lower incomes and older adults get dental care less frequently than they should. And there’s a clear and growing ripple effect from untreated oral disease that can be devastating to overall health.
What can we do to turn the tide?
To increase access to oral health care for those adults, part of the more than 74 million Americans who lack dental coverage, we need to protect and expand adult dental benefits — within both Medicaid and Medicare.
As of 2020, only 18 states have extensive dental benefits as part of Medicaid. Three states have none at all, while 10 cover it only for emergencies. Medicare, meanwhile, doesn’t have mandated coverage for the treatment of dental disease. It doesn't cover most dental care, dental procedures, or supplies, like cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, dental plates, or other dental devices
Advocates are working hard around the country to ensure adults have these critical benefits. In 2019, at least 14 states implemented legislative or administrative changes to enhance their state’s programs, with positive momentum going into 2020. The work isn’t easy, though, and uncertainty lies ahead because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many advocates fear that pandemic-related budget shortfalls could put this progress at risk.