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ADA Health Policy Institute

Unmet Dental Care Needs Falling among Low-Income Children, Rising Among Low-Income Adults and Seniors

(October 2016 - 60 min)



Download the PowerPoint slides

U.S. health care policy approaches child and adult oral health very differently. Under the Affordable Care Act, dental care for children is considered an essential health benefit. For adults, it is not. Comprehensive dental care for children is compulsory in Medicaid and CHIP. For adults, it is an optional benefit in Medicaid. Dental care is not included in Medicare.

The ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI) has released two studies that shed empirical light on the implications of this dual approach. In the first study, researchers examine trends in untreated cavities - a measure of unmet needs - based on the latest release of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The second study focuses on seniors and shows how unmet dental care needs impact physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Chair & Presenter

Marko Vujicic, Chief Economist & Vice President, ADA Health Policy Institute


  • Lisa Simpson, President & CEO, AcademyHealth
  • Ron Pollack, Executive Director, Families USA
  • Tricia Neuman, Senior Vice President & Director, Medicare Policy, Kaiser Family Foundation
  • Linda Flowers, Senior Advisor, Public Policy Institute