Medicaid

Dental Care

Dental Care for Medicaid and CHIP Enrollees

Dental health is an important part of people’s overall health. States are required to provide dental benefits to children covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but states choose whether to provide dental benefits for adults. See the 2010 Medicaid/CHIP Oral Health Services fact sheet for information on children’s access to dental services and opportunities and challenges to obtaining care.

Dental Benefits for Children in Medicaid

Medicaid covers dental services for all child enrollees as part of a comprehensive set of benefits, referred to as the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit. Though oral screening may be part of a physical exam, it does not substitute for a dental examination performed by a dentist. A referral to a dentist is required for every child in accordance with the periodicity schedule set by a state.

Dental services for children must minimally include:

  • Relief of pain and infections
  • Restoration of teeth
  • Maintenance of dental health

The Early Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Testing (EPSDT) benefit requires that all services must be provided if determined medically necessary. States determine medical necessity. If a condition requiring treatment is discovered during a screening, the state must provide the necessary services to treat that condition, whether or not such services are included in a state’s Medicaid plan.

Each state is required to develop a dental periodicity schedule in consultation with recognized dental organizations involved in child health care. Dental services may not be limited to emergency services for children entitled to EPSDT.

Dental services must be provided at intervals that meet reasonable standards of dental practice, and at such other intervals, as indicated by medical necessity, to determine the existence of a suspected illness or condition. States must consult with recognized dental organizations involved in child health care to establish those intervals. A referral to a dentist is required for every child in accordance with each State’s periodicity schedule and at other intervals as medically necessary. The periodicity schedule for other EPSDT services may not govern the schedule for dental services.

CHIP Dental Benefits

States that provide CHIP coverage to children through a Medicaid expansion program are required to provide the EPSDT benefit.  Dental coverage in separate CHIP programs is required to include coverage for dental services “necessary to prevent disease and promote oral health, restore oral structures to health and function, and treat emergency conditions.”  For more information see CHIP Dental Care Goals.

States with a separate CHIP program may choose from two options for providing dental coverage: a package of dental benefits that meets the CHIP requirements, or a benchmark dental benefit package. The benchmark dental package must be substantially equal to the (1) the most popular federal employee dental plan for dependents, (2) the most popular plan selected for dependants in the state’s employee dental plan, or (3) dental coverage offered through the most popular commercial insurer in the state.

States are also required to post a listing of all participating Medicaid and CHIP dental providers and benefit packages on www.insurekidsnow.gov.

Dental Health Services for Adults in Medicaid

States have flexibility to determine what dental benefits are provided to adult Medicaid enrollees. While most states provide at least emergency dental services for adults, less than half of the states currently provide comprehensive dental care. There are no minimum requirements for adult dental coverage.

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