More than 48 million people in the United States live in areas with dentist shortages. Access to care is also limited for the 72 million children and adults who rely on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program: Only about one-third of U.S. dentists accept public insurance.
Left untreated, dental health problems can cause pain and tooth loss, impair children’s growth and social development, impede productivity and job opportunities, exacerbate chronic conditions, and complicate detection of oral cancers. And when dental pain becomes too severe to ignore, many people—more than 2 million in 2012—resort to emergency room visits, which provide no treatment for underlying oral health problems but have a high price for patients and taxpayers: $1.6 billion in 2012, with Medicaid’s share totaling $520 million.
Pew’s dental campaign works to close gaps in dental care access by increasing the number of available providers and expanding the reach of preventive services through the use of dental sealant programs in high-need schools. Research shows that such programs are a valuable, cost-effective way to treat the children most at risk of tooth decay
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A new study published in the April issue of Health Affairs finds mixed utilization results among states offering Medicaid dental benefits. Read More
On Feb. 20, 2017, “NBC Nightly News” aired a segment on dental therapists as a growing solution to the lack of access to dental care across the country. The story demonstrated that dental therapists receive the same amount of training as dentists in the limited number of procedures they are licensed to perform. Read More
On Feb. 9, the Washington state House of Representatives passed a bill to allow Native American tribes to receive federal funding needed to sustain tribal clinics that use a midlevel dental provider. Earlier in February, S.S.B. 5079 passed the Senate unanimously. Read More
Working With Midlevel Providers
Dentists share their perspectives on these practitioners.