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Adult Dental Medicaid Benefits Reinstated in Missouri

May 27, 2014

The Missouri General Assembly voted on May 8 to restore a limited Medicaid dental benefit for all qualified adults for the first time since funding was cut nearly a decade ago.

The bipartisan vote approved the annual state budget, which included $48.2 million allocated for federal and state funding for dental Medicaid coverage. Having passed the general assembly, the bill is now on Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk. 

The funding comes at the right time. A recent Gallup poll shows that about one-third of people living in the Midwest did not visit a dentist in 2013. 

“This is a significant step in the right direction for improving both the oral and overall health of Missourians who struggle to afford dental care,” said Dr. Merle Nunemaker, president of the Missouri Dental Association (MDA). “The entire legislature is to be commended for recognizing both the likely improvements in oral health for adult Medicaid enrollees and the potential cost savings to the state by providing funding for adults to receive dental care under Medicaid. Instead of seeking pain relief in an emergency room, adults in need would be able to see a dentist to treat the underlying problem.”

Medicaid funding for adult dental services in Missouri previously was only available for those who are blind or pregnant, and those with disabilities. 

“This proposal could go a long way to improve the health of Missourians who haven’t been able to see a dentist in years,” said Dr. Craig Hollander, president-elect of the Greater St. Louis Dental Society.

Missouri dentists have advocated for better dental coverage for years, working alongside state legislators to strengthen the public/private safety net. Also, public education campaigns such as the MDA’s Your Mouth Is Talking, Are You Listening? campaign has sought to improve oral health awareness throughout the state.   

“The need is clear,” Nunemaker said. “We’ve seen that first hand – and we know what we must do. Missouri dentists will continue to work alongside Missouri policymakers to address the many barriers individuals face in obtaining dental care. The MDA is thankful to Representative Sue Allen and Senators Kurt Schaefer and Rob Schaaf for their commitment to protecting Missourians’ dental health and in moving this legislation forward.”