Data to Action Success Stories: Virginia

Expanding Dental Coverage to Pregnant Women


State officials in Virginia used Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) data to develop a plan to improve oral health across the state. An expansion in Medicaid coverage led to an increase in the number of women receiving Medicaid covered dental services each year.

Woman in a dental chair speaking to a dentist


  • Pregnancy may increase a woman’s risk of dental decay and gum disease. Gum disease has been associated with preterm birth and low birth weight.
  • Before 2015, Medicaid did not provide preventive dental benefits for pregnant women in Virginia.
  • Virginia PRAMS data from 2010 to 2011 showed that only 1 in 4 pregnant Medicaid recipients reported seeing a dentist.

PRAMS Data to Action

  • PRAMS data on dental care during pregnancy were included in Virginia’s Oral Health Burden Report.
  • In 2014, the Virginia Oral Health Coalition promoted a state budget amendment to add dental benefits for pregnant women receiving Medicaid. The coalition led a campaign to raise awareness among decision makers about the gaps in oral health coverage, with a focus on pregnant women.
  • In response to this campaign, the Virginia Joint Commission on Health Care recommended that dental coverage for pregnant women be a top legislative priority.
  • In 2014, the state’s governor supported these efforts by issuing an executive order that led to comprehensive dental coverage for all pregnant women on Medicaid during their pregnancy and until 2 months after delivery.


  • Effective March 2015, comprehensive dental coverage through Medicaid became available to women during their pregnancy and until 2 months after delivery.
  • The number of pregnant women in Virginia who received Medicaid-covered dental services increased each year from 2016 to 2019 and was more than double the number of pregnant women who received services in 2014, the year before the Medicaid dental coverage started.
  • Since this expanded coverage began, the Virginia Department of Health has conducted outreach with maternity clinics to encourage obstetricians and gynecologists to promote dental care and access to dental services for their patients.