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ADA Calls for All Stakeholders to Work Together to Help Medicaid Fulfill its Mission to Provide Dental Care to Underserved Population

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WASHINGTON, Feb.14, 2008—The American Dental Association (ADA) called on all concerned public agencies and private parties to work together to help Medicaid fulfill its mission to provide dental care to vulnerable populations, particularly low-income children.

In a statement provided today to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Domestic Policy, the ADA called on health professionals, policymakers, parents and others to work to remove barriers that block access to oral health care services.

The ADA statement comes on the eve of the anniversary of the death of 12-year-old Prince George’s County, Md. boy from complications arising from an untreated oral abscess that spread to his brain. The death of Deamonte Driver, whose family had lost their Medicaid benefits, galvanized public and congressional attention to the problems associated with lack of access to oral health care.

But a year later, public concern and congressional outrage have not yielded significant results.

"Fundamental changes to the Medicaid program are long overdue to ensure that low-income children have the same access to oral health care services that most Americans enjoy," said ADA President Mark Feldman. "It is time to help Medicaid meet its obligation to help vulnerable groups get necessary services."

While remaining committed to much more sweeping changes, the ADA, for the purposes of this hearing, urged the passage of two critical pieces of legislation. 

The "Essential Oral Health Care Act" (H.R. 2472), sponsored by Reps. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) would draw more private practicing dentists into Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program by significantly increasing federal matching funds for states to improve their plans.

Second, Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-Md.) "Deamonte's Law" (H.R. 2371), addresses dental workforce needs by providing grants to dental schools and qualified hospitals to increase the pursuit of pediatric dentistry.

The ADA said better and more comprehensive data of dental services needs should be collected to ensure Medicaid targets its resources more effectively. It also calls for an assessment of Medicaid and SCHIP program effectiveness.  

Increasing education efforts to ensure that parents are aware both of the important role oral health play in overall health and the dental benefits available to enrolled children are very important, the ADA said, as is support for the Medicaid program's efforts to monitor dental service utilization to ensure access for all children enrolled in the program. 

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit www.ada.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website www.MouthHealthy.org.