Why Dental Coverage Matters: A Tool-Kit

The resources on this page can help you educate policymakers and peers in your state about what's at stake. Scroll down to open or read a summary of these resources.


More than 45 million children count on Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for their medical and dental coverage. Medicaid provides children with a unique set of EPSDT (Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment) benefits. This establishes a solid benchmark of care for kids. At the same time, Medicaid allows states the flexibility to develop innovations that are likely to increase the number of children who receive dental services or to deliver services in a more cost-effective manner.

The Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare, has enabled many families with incomes too high for Medicaid/CHIP eligibility to secure dental coverage for their kids. It also increased the number of adults with dental coverage. The ACA filled a significant gap that used to exist because many working parents had employers who did not offer dental coverage at all or did not make it available to their employees' children.

Why Dental Coverage Matters

As more and more children have gained dental coverage in recent decades, the rate of untreated tooth decay has fallen among children — even among low-income kids. Recent research adds to the evidence showing how crucial dental coverage is for a child's health.

A recently published study showed that children with public or private dental insurance had more dental appointments and fewer unmet dental needs. Uninsured kids had the fewest dental appointments, and their parents were most likely to report unmet dental health needs due to cost. In other words, coverage opens the door to children receiving the care they need to stay healthy. Because nearly 4 in 10 children are insured dentally through Medicaid or CHIP, any changes to these programs could have a major impact on kids' oral health. 

A Tool-Kit for Health and Children's Advocates

Resources to Support Your Advocacy

1. Fast Facts about Oral Health & Dental Coverage (PDF): This two-page document shows why oral health is so important, shares the serious consequences of poor oral health and explores the critical need for affordable coverage. Consider sharing this with your members of Congress (House and Senate) and your state legislators.

2. Key Messages about Dental Coverage (PDF): This one-pager provides several talking points about why the plan created by the House Republican leadership would be a big step backward for children's oral health, particularly the most disadvantaged kids. These messages will be periodically updated to reflect new information and analyses.

3. News Release for "Keep Medicaid Strong for Kids" (PDF): This March 22 news release, issued by CDHP and six other medical/children's advocacy organizations, urged Congress to keep Medicaid strong for children by voting "no" on the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA). As the release explained, AHCA "would allow states to choose a block grant model, which would eviscerate existing protections afforded to children and pregnant women in the Medicaid program."

4. Oral Health for Children in Health Reform Discussions: These PowerPoint slides were created by CDHP for a Congressional briefing. Feel free to share these slides with other stakeholder groups in your state or consider incorporating some of these slides' content into your presentations or remarks to policymakers. Slides 6-10 focus on how Medicaid and CHIP coverage reduce kids' unmet dental needs, while giving states sufficient flexibility in shaping their programs.

5. Calling Your Elected Representatives: This one-pager provides quick access to the contact info for your U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative. It also provides a sample script for what you can say to let them know how you feel about Congress' proposal to make sweeping changes in medical and dental coverage policies.

Letters to Congress from Children's and Oral Health Coalitions

1. Children's & Family Advocates' Letter to Senate and House Leaders (PDF): CDHP was one of more than 100 national organizations, as well as organizations from all 50 states, co-signing this March 22 letter urging leaders of Congress to adopt a “do no harm” standard for children as they consider any changes to the nation’s health care system. Today, roughly 95% of U.S. children have health coverage, and none of these organizations want to see that progress reversed.

2. Dental Community's Letter to U.S. Senate Committee (PDF): This February 27 letter was co-signed by 18 oral health organizations and sent in late February to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. As the Committee explores opportunities to improve the healthcare system, the letter urges it to build recent progress and "fully attend to the oral health needs of Americans as it is a critical but often overlooked component of overall health."

Webinars & Other Resources

1. Webinar  Medicaid Waivers and Children's Oral Health (PDF): These slides are from a May 9 webinar that focused on Medicaid waivers and their impact on children's oral health. Access a recording of the webinar here. The presenters were Sara Rosenbaum of the Milken Institute School of Public Health (George Washington University) and Peter Damiano of the University of Iowa Public Policy Center.

2. Webinar – The Uncertain Future of Medicaid and Children's Oral Health (PDF): Recorded on April 5, this webinar was co-presented by CDHP and Community Catalyst. The webinar reviewed why the House Republican leadership's plan was so troubling and also explored the crucial role that grassroots advocacy played in defeating the plan. Click on the "Webinar" header to access the slides, and a recording of the webinar is available here.

3. Webinar – The Uncertain Future of Medicaid and CHIP: Recorded on March 9, this 53-minute webinar provides an update about proposals to reshape Medicaid and explores the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CDHP’s Colin Reusch, senior policy analyst, and policy consultant Libby Mullin were joined by Genevieve Kenney, who is co-director of the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute. The webinar examines what is at stake amid the health reform debate in Congress and how oral health advocates can be an effective voice. A PDF of the webinar's slides is available here.

4. Congressional Budget Office's Analysis of the AHCA Bill (PDF): On March 13, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued an analysis on the impact and cost of the American Health Care Act, which is the proposal submitted by Congressional leaders for changing health coverage. The CBO projects that under the proposal, 14 million Americans would lose coverage by the end of next year and that number would grow to 24 million by the year 2026.

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children ages 6-12 suffered a toothache in the previous six months.
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