Across the country, there is a growing push for states to expand their Medicaid programs to include dental care coverage, a trend that is being applauded by dental care experts nationwide.
"I think sometimes dentistry looks to be on the outside of healthcare people might forget about it being a part of healthcare," said Therese Cahill with the Maine Dental Association.
Maine is a state with about 200,000 lower-income residents on Medicaid, which in this state is called MaineCare. Up until last month, residents on MaineCare do not have dental insurance as part of their healthcare coverage. But lawmakers here and across the country are recognizing the growing need to include trips to the dentist as part of regular healthcare coverage.
And they're changing laws to make that happen.
"For those people, it’s going to make a significant amount of difference," Cahill added.
An estimated 31.6 million Americans don’t have health insurance and compare that to the 76.5 million Americans who don’t have dental insurance. In the last two years, a number of states have added or partially expanded their Medicaid coverage to include dental insurance, including Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Louisiana.
"There is increasing recognition of the value of oral health to overall health, the mouth is connected to the rest of the body is important," said Jane Grover with the American Dental Association (ADA).
The ADA has spent the last few years lobbying state lawmakers to utilize funds from COVID relief money and other sources to expand oral health programs. In the coming years, their hope is to see more states follow in the footsteps of places like Maine.
"States want their citizens to be healthy and that’s a great step in that direction," Grover said.