Access – Oral Health Watch

Working toward zero oral health disparities

Access to preventive oral health care and early dental treatment can have a profound effect on a person’s life.

Consider this: less than one-quarter (22%) of adults with Apple Health coverage (Washington state’s Medicaid program) saw a dentist in 2017, leaving an overwhelming majority without access to essential care. Untreated oral disease can lead to declining dental health and wellbeing. Painful cavities and visibly missing teeth can affect a person’s general health, nutrition, self-esteem, military readiness and job prospects.

People who are unable to access routine and preventive dental care often end up in hospital emergency rooms – a very costly way to provide care. Hospitals are ill-equipped to address dental disease, leading to repeat visits and opioid prescriptions rather than needed dental treatment.

Oral Health Watch supports policies and programs that expand dental care access for all, reduce health disparities and recognize the essential role oral health plays in overall health.

  • We will continue to advocate for the sustained support of proven-effective programs like the Access to Baby and Child Dentistry program, which attracts many dentists to serve children from lower-income households and offers an introduction to participating in the Apple Health dental program.
  • We will champion innovative practices like the Oral Health Connections pilot that show promise in expanding dental care access for those facing the greatest need.
  • We urge legislators to add dental coverage for two underserved communities: adults from Compact of Free Associations (COFA) nation (Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau), and adults who access medical coverage through the state’s Medical Care Services Program.
  • We support efforts to make sure the oral health workforce and safety net dental clinics meets current needs and are prepared for increased demand as the state’s population grows and ages.
  • Oral Health Watch supports outreach programs that educate people on the benefits of prevention and the importance of good oral health.
  • We urge lawmakers to explore ways to expand dental care access for vulnerable populations facing the greatest needs, including senior citizens, children and underserved communities.

Please tell lawmakers that you support expanding oral health care access and reducing health disparities by clicking here.

If you or a family member is in need of dental care, click here.

Opportunities to Improve the Medicaid Dental Program

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Apple Health dental program investments good policy, the right thing to do

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Make your voice heard for immigrant families

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Op-ed: Equity requires retaining dental coverage

State of Reform •

Policymakers in Olympia confronting the financial damage caused by COVID-19 have some difficult decisions to make…Yet, it would be a huge mistake to cut essential health care safety net programs for people who are the most vulnerable and are already experiencing health inequities.