Medicaid Covered Children Lack Dental Care

Armen Hareyan's picture

A new study comparing dental health of children covered by Medicaid with children covered by private health insurance found that those under Medicaid coverage seriously lack dental care.

Medicaid is a federal and state health insurance program covering low-income, blind, disabled people. In 2007 there was a case when a Maryland Medicaid covered 12 year old child died because of an infected tooth. Child's parents were unable to get proper treatment to the serious infection. This case urged Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate how Medicaid covers children, especially their dental health.

GAO looked at two surveys and concluded results for 2005. The analysis showed that 6.5 million US Medicaid children, aged from 2 to 18, had untreated tooth decay, which is twice as much as children with private health insurance.


There were about 20 million children covered by Medicaid and only 1/3 of them saw a dentists during the past year, while more than half of children with private coverage reported a dentist visit.

More than 5% (1.1 million children) of Medicaid children reported to have dental conditions like tooth fractures, oral lesions, chronic pain, which actually require urgent care. This is 4 times as much as children with private coverage.

It is hard to say if it is Medicaid or the parents to blame in lack of dental care, but GAO reported cases when parents were trying to get their children to dentists, but 724000 such cases in 2005 failed because of coverage.

Overall, the report shows that children covered by Medicaid visit dentists very rarely and only in urgent cases, while children covered by private health insurance visit dentists regularly and receive appropriate care on time.