Oral Health Advocacy: New Policy on Medicare and Medicaid Dental Benefits Explored in Live Conversation with CareQuest Institute CEO

Washington, D.C. – As a country at the forefront of health care advancements, the United States has made significant progress in treating and preventing many diseases. However, one area that often gets overlooked is oral health. For many Americans, access to oral health care is not a luxury but a fundamental right that should be available to all, regardless of their background or zip code.

In a recent interview for the “Chew on This” livestream conversation series on health and equity, Myechia Minter-Jordan, President and CEO of CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, discussed the importance of strengthening coverage and access for patients. The conversation shed light on the crucial connection between oral health and overall health, highlighting the need for improved dental care access for all Americans.

Reflecting on personal experiences with oral health, Nanette Barragán, who represents California’s 44th District and is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, shared insights into the impact of poor oral health in communities like hers. She emphasized how systemic barriers, such as language barriers and high costs, hinder access to essential dental care for many Americans.

Recent research from CareQuest Institute revealed concerning statistics, showing that Latino and Black communities are disproportionately affected by oral health issues. The data indicated that Latino adults are more likely to experience tooth loss, while over half of Black adults reported having lost one or more permanent teeth. These findings highlight the urgent need for improved access to preventative and essential dental care in underserved communities.

Barragán also emphasized the need for a shift in health care policy to prioritize oral health as essential care. She introduced the Medicare Dental Benefit Act and the Medicaid Dental Benefit Act to bridge the gap for millions of Americans without access to dental care. These bills aim to provide affordable dental care to underserved communities and address the root causes of poor oral health by focusing on prevention and education.

The congresswoman stressed the importance of education in promoting oral health, particularly in light of the deep connections between oral health and chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart disease. By increasing access to preventative dental screenings and cleanings and implementing oral health outreach and education programs, Barragán’s proposed bills seek to address the underlying issues contributing to poor oral health in American communities.

Promoting oral health is not solely a partisan issue, Barragán argued. It is a matter of public health and well-being, with potential cost-saving benefits that could alleviate the burden on emergency rooms and improve outcomes for individuals. As discussions about health care policy continue, she emphasized the need to include oral health in the broader conversation to ensure a holistic approach to individual well-being.

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