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Oral Health and COVID-19: Increasing the Need for Prevention and Access


A map shows the status of Medicaid dental benefits in the 50 states as follows: no coverage (list states), emergency-only coverage (list), limited coverage (list), extensive coverage (list), and coverage under development (list). Adult dental benefits under Medicaid are optional for states, and the extent of coverage varies by state. As of September 2019, North Dakota does not offer adult dental benefits to its Medicaid expansion population. Under New Hampshire’s bill, the US Department of Health and Human Services is directed to develop a “comprehensive plan to ensure that Medicaid recipients can safeguard their smiles and their overall health.” New Hampshire has passed a law to create adult dental benefits under Medicaid, but this change will not take effect until April 1, 2021. Under Delaware’s bill, the state will offer preventive and restorative dental coverage to adult Medicaid beneficiaries; Delaware’s adult dental benefit under Medicaid is scheduled to go into effect in October 2020. Maryland offers treatment for symptoms in emergency situations but does not cover emergency surgery. Maryland does not offer adult dental benefits under Medicaid; however, a new pilot program launched in 2019 offers limited coverage for certain low-income, disabled individuals. Alaska’s state budget was passed, keeping adult dental coverage intact; however, the governor’s line-item vetoes in the budget will result in cuts to the state’s Medicaid program, including adult dental, unless the legislature moves to rescind them. Alaska reversed plans to eliminate adult benefits for preventive services under Medicaid in late 2019.


Extent of Medicaid adult dental benefits, by state. Source: Center for Health Care Strategies (46).

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The opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors’ affiliated institutions.

Page last reviewed: August 13, 2020