Hot Sheet

Smile! You’ve finally got dental coverage — thanks to a state program

Author: Dan Njegomir - November 15, 2017 - Updated: November 15, 2017

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Zaida Garcia, one of several people profiled in a Colorado Dental Association campaign touting Medicaid dental coverage for adults. (cdaonline.org)

Each week, the Colorado Dental Association has been posting real-life testimonials on social media about the impact of a state initiative extending Medicaid dental coverage to Colorado adults. Several adults from across Colorado — Denver, the Western Slope and Eastern Plains included — are being highlighted in the series being shared on Facebook, Twitter and the Colorado Dental Association website.

Children in Medicaid-insured households long have gotten coverage for their oral health care, but adults only were brought in under the state-federal Medicaid umbrella a few years ago. A Colorado Dental Association press release this week touts the effort and gives some background:

Starting on April 1, 2014, Colorado adults enrolled in Medicaid gained access to dental coverage. Colorado expanded this benefit because of the importance of dental care and the strong evidence that good oral health is substantially linked to overall physical health. Health experts agree that neglecting oral health leads to serious conditions like strokes, heart and lung disease, pneumonia and diabetes. Good oral health conversely can prevent major health conditions and supports healthy pregnancies.

What’s more, all those maladies and more become the burden of taxpayers when the medically indigent don’t have dental coverage; they wind up in emergency rooms. And that costs all of society a lot more than if they simply had seen a dentist in time.

Hence, testimonials like this one from Zaida Garcia of Aurora:

I have a really big smile. That’s one of the reasons I know I have to take care of my teeth. I didn’t always have access to affordable dental care. That didn’t do my teeth any favors. …

… I moved to Colorado two years ago, and got dental coverage by enrolling in Medicaid. I promptly found a dentist and scheduled a teeth cleaning. I ended up needing a root canal and cap for a tooth that otherwise would have needed to be pulled. …

… The cap on my tooth is the perfect shade—not too light, not too dark. I still have a big smile, because I know that nobody can tell a thing!

The subtext of the “Dental Health Matters” campaign by the dental association is to help ensure continued state funding for the program. It’s covered by interest the state earns on unclaimed bank accounts and other unclaimed assets whose owners can’t be located.

A key premise seems to be that the additional funding for the adult dental benefit is a cost-saving investment not only in the physical health of the beneficiaries but also in the fiscal health of the state in the long run.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is a blogger and opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.


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