Dental conditions total $1B in emergency department spending – How dental inequality is expanding

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With politicians threatening to cut Medicaid, low income communities are left facing oral health, employment and overall health challenges, according to The New York Times.

Many state Medicaid programs do not offer dental coverage, leaving patients susceptible to various health issues, including periodontal disease with is associated with cancer and cardiovascular disease. The disparity between dental health and oral health goes beyond gum infections. Pregnant women without access to dental care or teeth cleanings have been linked to increased preterm deliveries.

The domino effect from poor oral health to problematic overall health continues. People who have bad teeth often have a difficult time finding employment. Around 33 percent of adults with income below 138 percent of the poverty level report their teeth appearance prohibited their ability to interview for employment, according to the report.

Dental inequality in the U.S. is also seen indirectly. A study of water fluoridation, found fluoridation increased women's earnings by 4 percent, according to The New York Times. Without access to annual dental care and protection from teeth decay in drinking water, low income areas oral health is left to suffer.

Currently, 17 states offer comprehensive adult dental benefits through their Medicaid programs, leaving the majority of people to purchase dental coverage through private insurers. However, as compared to adults who received coverage through their employers, people who are unemployed tend to need dental coverage more than those employed, furthering the occurrence of dental inequality.

Kentucky is one of the states offering dental benefits to Medicaid enrollees, including those with recent work requirements. A study found $1 billion was spent in annual emergency department spending due to dental conditions, and 30 percent of these visits were from Medicaid patients, according to a report.

While covering dental care through emergency room-only plans is not ideal, it gives low income patients and families more access to dental care. However, studies show Medicaid patients with access to dental coverage attend dental visits annually.

More articles on dental:
Top 10 insurance pains dental providers face
10 states with best, worst dental health – Minnesota ranks No. 1
Majority of dentists between ages 55 & 64: 5 statistics

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