Older adults are keeping their natural teeth longer, spurring calls for dental coverage under Medicare. Although Medicare dental coverage would benefit all older adults, the poorest among them are already eligible for dental benefits through Medicaid. The authors examine the association between states’ Medicaid adult dental benefits and dental care use and tooth loss among low-income older adults.
Using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from 2014, 2016, and 2018, the authors examined adults 65 years or older. The outcomes examined included annual dental visit and partial and complete tooth loss. Poisson regressions were used to obtain risk ratios after adjusting for covariates.
States’ Medicaid adult dental benefits were significantly associated with dental care use, with low-income older adults in states with no coverage having the lowest probability of visiting a dentist (risk ratio [RR], 0.83; 95% CI, 0.74 to 0.94), followed by emergency-only coverage (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.84 to 0.98) and limited benefits (RR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.85 to 0.98) relative to states with extensive benefits. There were no significant differences in either partial or complete tooth loss.
States’ Medicaid adult dental benefits are significantly associated with dental visits among low-income seniors. Providing comprehensive dental benefits under Medicaid can improve access to dental care among low-income older adults.