News

  • Oral Health Advocates Call on Maryland to Provide Basic Dental Benefits to Adults on Medicaid

    By MDAC February 7, 2018

    Legislation heard today before the Maryland General Assembly Senate Finance Committee would provide a basic dental benefit to adult Medicaid recipients. Oral health experts and patients called on the state to improve access to preventive dentistry for nearly 700,000 Marylanders who face overwhelming financial obstacles to obtaining dental care and as a result cost the state millions in repeated emergency room visits for chronic pain and infections. Maryland Medical Assistance Program - Dental Coverage for Adults (SB 284), a bill introduced by Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, requires the state to fund a basic adult dental benefit through Medicaid. The bill would help Marylanders who might have otherwise relied on the emergency room for treatment of chronic oral health conditions establish a dental home and obtain preventive oral health care. "Basic dental coverage will divert thousands of low income Marylanders from expensive and ultimately fruitless trips to the emergency room while also saving the state millions of dollars. The legislation ensures that Maryland provides limited dental coverage as part of the Medicaid program. A small investment in oral health will ease much suffering and save money,” said Senator Middleton. The need for adult dental coverage in Medicaid is great. Although dental professionals statewide strive to help at-need patients through programs that offer low-cost care, or through non-profits that offer free services, it is not enough. The struggle to obtain needed dental care puts many of our most vulnerable citizens at risk of untreated pain and serious health issues. Mary Backley, executive director of the Maryland Dental Action Coalition, said, “The single most important step to improving the oral health – and overall health – of Marylanders is a Medicaid program that covers dental services for adults. Maryland has become a model for the nation in improving the oral health of children. Now we need to do the same for adults.” In 34 states, adults who qualify for Medicaid get dental coverage. Maryland is one of just 16 states that does not have adult dental coverage in its Medicaid program. Through the Maryland General Assembly’s unanimous support of Senate Bill 169, the Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC) studied the cost of emergency room visits by adults with chronic dental conditions. In fiscal year 2016, Maryland adults made 42,327 emergency department visits for chronic dental conditions, with an average charge of $537 per visit, or a total charge of $22.7 million. Medicaid paid for 53% of those visits, even though Medicaid participants only account for 15% of the adult population in Maryland. This discrepancy is likely the result of the lack of consistent adult dental coverage in the Medicaid program. Read more →

  • MARYLAND SPENDS $10 MILLION ON EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS TO TREAT SYMPTOMS RATHER THAN CAUSES OF CHRONIC DENTAL CONDITIONS

    By MDAC January 24, 2018

    (ANNAPOLIS, MD – January 24, 2018) – Improved access to preventative oral health care could reduce the cost of emergency room visits for chronic dental conditions, according to a recent study by the Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC), the state’s leading non-governmental oral health policy and advocacy organization. The study found that in fiscal year 2016, Maryland adults made 42,327 emergency department visits for chronic dental conditions, with an average charge of $537 per visit, or a total charge of $22.7 million. Legislative briefings held today before the MD Senate Finance and House Health and Government Operations Committees reviewed the study’s findings and explored how $10 million in Medicaid funds might be reinvested to establish an adult dental benefit in Medicaid. "Basic dental coverage will divert thousands of low income Marylanders from expensive and ultimately fruitless trips to the emergency room while also saving the state millions of dollars. The legislation I introduced today ensures that Maryland provides limited dental coverage as part of the Medicaid program. A small investment in oral health will ease much suffering and save money,” said MD Senator Thomas "Mac" Middleton, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Maryland Medical Assistance Program - Dental Coverage for Adults (SB 284), introduced by Sen. Middleton, will require Medicaid to provide a limited adult dental benefit so that Marylanders who might have otherwise relied on the emergency room for treatment will be able to establish a dental home, obtain preventive oral health care, and avert costly chronic dental conditions. MDAC and its coalition partners applaud Senator Middleton’s efforts to ensure that low-income adults in Maryland have access to oral health care. Many Maryland adults face serious financial obstacles to obtaining dental care, which can lead to serious oral health issues and drive people to the emergency room with tooth pain and oral infections. Emergency rooms are unable to treat the causes of dental pain, so they treat the symptoms and send patients home with antibiotics, pain medications, or referrals for dental services that patients may not be able to afford. The high cost of treating symptoms in an emergency room without treating the underlying dental condition is costly, ineffective, and a poor use of resources. Mary Backley, executive director of the Maryland Dental Action Coalition, said, “The single most important step to improving the oral health – and overall health – of Marylanders is a Medicaid program that covers dental services for adults. Maryland has become a model for the nation in improving the oral health of children. Now we need to do the same for adults.” Read more →

  • Racial Disparities in Emergency Department Utilization for Dental/Oral Health-Related Conditions in Maryland

    By Natalia I. Chalmers, DDC, Ph.D August 25, 2017

    Hospital emergency departments (EDs) are a place where many Americans seek treatment of dental conditions. Racial and ethnic minorities consistently have higher rates of ED utilization than whites for dental conditions. The reasons for these disparities and significant public health concerns are investigated less often. In this paper, we measure trends in racial disparities in ED discharges for dental conditions in Maryland from 2010 to 2013. To understand these disparities, we also describe differences between racial groups in age, gender, income, location, payer, comorbidities, and the availability of dental care. Read more →

  • The Tooth Divide: Beauty, Class and the Story of Dentistry

    By Sarah Jaffe March 23, 2017

    Otto’s book begins and ends with the story of Deamonte Driver, a 12-year-old Maryland boy who died of an infection caused by one decaying tooth, and the system that failed him. In pointing out the flaws in that system, Otto takes us back through the history of dentistry and shows us how the dental profession evolved, separately from the rest of health care, into a mostly private industry that revolves almost entirely around one’s ability to pay. Read more →

  • Moving dental health into primary care

    By Modern Healthcare, Elizabeth Whitman January 7, 2017

    Expanded-practice dental hygienist Jessica Steele works with children at an Advantage-run Dental Learning Lab at Ensworth Elementary in Bend, Ore., helping introduce children to oral health. Read more →