Medicaid Dental Guidance to States: An Opportunity to Aim for Equity

By: Guest Blogger

The Children's Dental Health Project's brief, Medicaid Dental Guidance to States: An Opportunity to Aim for Equity, explains an opportunity for state officials, insurers, health providers, families, and advocates to make Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) more responsive, accountable, and oriented toward equity in children’s oral health care.

Our 1-minute video shares an overview of this renewed chance to make progress for children.

In 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a bulletin urging state Medicaid and CHIP agencies to improve children’s access to oral health care by better aligning their coverage and payment policies. This guidance was issued in response to a 2016 federal report, which found that some state Medicaid policies prevented children from getting the full range of dental care their coverage required. CMS' guidance to states affirmed the importance of providing individualized care to meet every child’s unique oral health needs, rather than the current “one-size-fits-all” approach to treatment. The latter runs counter to Medicaid’s child-focused benefit and may be ineffective for kids with greater risks for dental disease.

The Children’s Dental Health Project's brief walks through current policy hurdles and how state-level stakeholders can use the federal bulletin to ensure children enrolled in public coverage get the full range of dental services they need to be healthy — and to which they are entitled.

Learn more with these related resources:

  • Watch or listen to the recording and view the slides from the April 2019 webinar, Promoting equity in children's dental care in Medicaid and CHIP. CDHP director of policy, Colin Reusch, led a panel discussion with Dr. Len Finocchio, principal at Blue Sky Consulting and former Associate Director of the California Department of Health Care Services; Kelly Whitener, Associate Professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy’s Center for Children and Families; and Dr. Jessica Meeske, pediatric dentist and member of the Government Affairs Council and Medicaid-CHIP Subcommittee with the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry. For additional material, see the 'webinar' section of CDHP's toolkit page (
  • Read a blog by CDHP's executive director Meg Booth, which offers additional context about this opportunity for states to promote equity in children's dental care.
  • Download our Checklist for Advocates, designed to help you effectively engage state partners on this issue.
  • Access CDHP's fact sheet, The Untapped Potential of Oral Health Risk Assessments, a clinical tool based on individualized care.
  • Listen to the recording and view slides from the August 2018 webinar, Removing obstacles from children's dental care in Medicaid: A renewed push for change, featuring past CMS officials and experts from CDHP, the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Review CDHP's July 2018 Quick Guide about CMS' guidance to states.

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Did you know?

75% }
of American Indian/Alaskan Native children have experienced caries by age 5.
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