Dental Campaign

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More than 63 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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This Dental Therapist Is Filling a Gap in U.S. Health Care

In Minnesota, one woman’s vital role.

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Who Lacks Access?

Certain populations face more serious barriers to dental care access.

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Our Work

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  • Dental Therapists Can Provide Cost-Efficient Care in Rural Areas

    A recently released study from Minnesota shows that a dental therapist can be a cost-efficient member of a rural dental clinic’s team, with average daily billings only slightly lower than those of clinic dentists. The findings suggest that expanded use of these therapists can improve access to oral health care—as envisioned by state legislation adopted in 2009—while keeping... Read More

  • How to Improve Oral Health Outcomes for Kids

    February is National Children’s Dental Health Month—a great time to remind ourselves about the relative simplicity of keeping children in good oral health, and a sobering time to consider how far the nation still has to go to reach that goal. Read More

  • Study Finds Dental Therapists Improve Outcomes for Alaska Native Communities

    Residents of Alaska Native communities served frequently by dental therapists had lower rates of tooth extractions and more preventive care than children and adults in communities not receiving these services, according to peer-reviewed research published online in January in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry. The study, led by Donald Chi of the University of Washington Dental School,... Read More

Working With Midlevel Providers

Dentists share their perspectives on these practitioners.

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Media Contact

Jennifer Stapleton

Manager, Communications