Home Dental Radiology Medicaid adult dental benefits and oral health of low-income older adults

Medicaid adult dental benefits and oral health of low-income older adults

by adminjay


Older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer, spurring calls for dental coverage
under Medicare. Although Medicare dental coverage would benefit all older adults,
the poorest among them are already eligible for dental benefits through Medicaid.
The authors examine the association between states’ Medicaid adult dental benefits
and dental care use and tooth loss among low-income older adults.


Using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from 2014, 2016, and 2018,
the authors examined adults 65 years or older. The outcomes examined included annual
dental visit and partial and complete tooth loss. Poisson regressions were used to
obtain risk ratios after adjusting for covariates.


States’ Medicaid adult dental benefits were significantly associated with dental care
use, with low-income older adults in states with no coverage having the lowest probability
of visiting a dentist (risk ratio [RR], 0.83; 95% CI, 0.74 to 0.94), followed by emergency-only
coverage (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.84 to 0.98) and limited benefits (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.85
to 0.98) relative to states with extensive benefits. There were no significant differences
in either partial or complete tooth loss.


States’ Medicaid adult dental benefits are significantly associated with dental visits
among low-income seniors. Providing comprehensive dental benefits under Medicaid can
improve access to dental care among low-income older adults.

Practical Implications

As the older adult patient population grows, the poorest older adults may face barriers
to dental care in the absence of dental coverage. Dental professionals must engage
in advocating for comprehensive dental coverage, especially for vulnerable populations.

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