The Help Minnesota Smile Coalition Advocates for Reinstatement of Dental Benefits

A dental coalition is working to restore basic oral health benefits to help improve oral health among adults with low incomes.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The Help Minnesota Smile Coalition — a partnership between the Minnesota Dental Association (MDA) and Dental Access Partners (Apple Tree Dental, Community Dental Care, and Hennepin Healthcare) — is advocating for a full restoration of essential adult dental benefits that were cut by the Minnesota legislature in 2009.

Current benefits in the Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) is limited in what it is covered and leaves out many essential benefits that individuals receive through private dental benefit.  For example, the current benefit set only covers one of the two major diseases of the mouth: tooth decay. Adults with low incomes do not have access to benefits that help the fight gum disease, the other major disease of the mouth.

Left untreated, dental diseases negatively impact overall health and well-being. Bacteria from the mouth can cause infection in other parts of the body, especially when the immune system has been compromised by disease or medical treatments. Good oral health not only helps prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease, it also can help decrease the impact of other diseases on overall health. An unhealthy mouth may increase the risk of serious and costly health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even preterm labor.

Aside from improving the overall dental health of Minnesotans, reinstating dental benefits would also ensure a more efficient use of health care dollars. For example, a 2014 report from Minnesota’s Department of Human Services showed Minnesota spent nearly $50 million per year on oral health visits in ERs across the state. Instead of distributing antibiotics for infections and providing temporary relief for health issues, the Help Minnesota Smile coalition is advocating for these dollars to instead be spent on preventative care.

By restoring full adult dental coverage, Minnesota will once again support the health and wellness of those who are most at risk. The Minnesota Dental Association and Dental Access Partners are joined by several other organizations to advocate for legislation to restore the adult dental benefit set and to expand Medical Assistance to cover nonsurgical treatment for adult periodontal disease. We believe that these efforts will have a positive impact on the oral health of low-income adults, adults with disabilities, and older adults. To learn more about the Help Minnesota Smile coalition and how you can help restore health care benefits, visit

Minnesota Dental Association Seeking to Put Teeth in Medicaid Reimbursement for State’s Children

Minnesota Ranks Nearly Last for Pediatric Medicaid Dental Rates

The Minnesota Dental Association announced today a renewed campaign to grow support for raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for dental services in Minnesota. The state currently ranks 49th out of the 50 states in the nation for reimbursement rates of children needing dental care according to a study released by the Health Policy Institute of the American Dental Association. When you add adults to the mix, the state’s standing isn’t much better, ranking fourth from the bottom.

The public affairs campaign, sponsored by the Minnesota Dental Association along with local media throughout the state, is designed to educate citizens and their elected representatives about the financial and health implications of maintaining the status quo regarding the state’s Medicaid policy. Nearly six in ten children from low-income Minnesotafamilies are not receiving the dental care they need. Dentists throughout the state agree that this circumstance is creating a dental access to care crisis of extraordinary proportions.

Dr. Kevin Dens, a dentist from Baxter, Minn., said, “The system for dental care in our state is working in all areas, except one – Medicaid reimbursement. As dentists, we are committed to providing excellent care to our patients regardless of their ability to pay.” However, bottom of the pack reimbursement rates are forcing many dentists to make tough decisions on accepting new patients. “We want to continue to do our part,” Dens said, “but this is not a sustainable model and it’s causing an access to dental care crisis in Minnesota.”

It makes good economic sense for Minnesota, its citizens and its dentists to invest more appropriately in dental Medicaid funding, according to Minnesota Dental Association Executive Director Carmelo Cinqueonce. Closing the funding gap would cost approximately $5060 million dollars per year over the two-year biennium. This is less than three-tenths of one percent of the budget. “The cost to the state in dental-related emergency room visits alone makes up nearly all of that investment,” Cinqueonce said.

Over the past 10 years, the trends have only gotten worse. In 2010, the number of children on Medicaid receiving dental care at least once per year was at an already low rate of 44 percent. By 2015, that number had dropped to 41 percent and it is still declining.

Cinqueonce added, “Minnesotans expect more from their health care system. The dentists of Minnesota expect more. And, quite frankly, my experience is that many of our legislative policy makers expect more. We are re-launching this campaign because we firmly believe that education is the key. As the problem is spotlighted, we have every confidence that the people of Minnesota and policymakers will act and our quality of life as it relates to dental care will improve for everyone.”

An increase in Medicaid reimbursement for dental care provides the clearest path to improving utilization for the most vulnerable patient populations living in the state. Studies show that states that have committed to a payment model that moves Medicaid reimbursement in line with commercial insurance rates coupled with administrative simplification have all but closed the gap in access to care between commercial patients and Medicaid patients.

“It’s more than just about a nice smile,” Cinqueonce said. “All Minnesotans deserve access to quality health care and that includes dental care. This is about giving all of us a reason to smile.”

The Minnesota Dental Association is a statewide professional membership organization representing dentists and dental student with a membership exceeding 3,000. The non-profit organization is committed to serving as a trusted, credible resource to the public while supporting the dental profession through innovation, advocacy and education. For more information or to pledge support, go to