A dentist works on polishing and contouring the teeth of a patient at his dental office in Virginia Beach. Va. Roughly 1 in 4 Americans don’t have dental coverage, according to industry figures.
A dentist works on polishing and contouring the teeth of a patient at his dental office in Virginia Beach. Va. Roughly 1 in 4 Americans don’t have dental coverage, according to industry figures. (Kristen Zeis/AP)

In June 2019, Maryland’s Medicaid adult dental pilot program was given the green light. The program offers free dental care to approximately 38,000 adults who are enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid and qualify due to age, income or disability. This pilot program is focused on reducing emergency room dental visits and costs by providing cleanings, fillings and extractions (“Maryland’s new dental insurance program for low-income residents pays to remove teeth — but not replace them,” Aug. 22).

Across the state, eligible adults have been auto-assigned to several federally qualified health centers and community health centers including but not limited to Chase Brexton, Choptank and Chesapeake Health Center. The Maryland Dental Action Coalition and other state advocates are working to inform these adults through mailing campaigns and text messages of this benefit. Outreach efforts are beginning to pay off. Dr. Brooks Woodward, dental director at Chase Brexton Health Services, has noticed an increase in the number of new dental patients. Dr. Woodward estimates that approximately 40% of auto-assigned patients have been scheduled at Chase Brexton clinics in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, Randallstown and Columbia.

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The pilot expansion program offers many benefits. However, it still has room to grow. The dental services covered are very similar to standard dental insurance, but the program does not include root canals or dentures. Even without these treatment options, this program will enable eligible adults to improve their oral health, and socialize without being self-conscious. Many who are eligible could seek employment without the fear of being judged. With an $800 per person annual benefit during the first year of the program, eligible adults should contact local community health centers to inquire about available dental services.

Taneika Duhaney

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