Report on Increasing Utilization of Dental Services by Medicaid-Enrolled Children

A report prepared by researchers at George Washington University shows that the numbers and percentages of children receiving dental services under Medicaid have significantly increased during the federal fiscal years (FFY) 2000-2012. While part of this increase can be attributed to the overall growth in the number of children enrolled in Medicaid, this report conveys the general trend across the nation that the percentage of children receiving dental care has risen appreciably.

This study classifies the broad range of dental services into two main categories: preventive (e.g., dental cleaning) and treatment (e.g., filling a cavity). The data for both types of services illustrates that children’s access to dental care has improved. For example, the number of children obtaining preventive services has almost tripled and the percentage has nearly doubled. As could be expected, the numbers for preventive services have jumped at higher rates than those for treatment services, which administer more severe dental problems.

Nevertheless, there clearly remains room for further progress in both categories as evidenced by the key finding that in FFY 2012, only 42.5% of Medicaid-covered children in Pennsylvania received any kind of dental service. This research verifies and underscores the primary concern of our Right to Know case: the fact that in Pennsylvania, the majority of low-income children are getting no dental care at all.