Policy & Advocacy

We mobilize diverse coalitions, champion policies, and create pathways that lead us to a more accessible, equitable, and integrated oral health system.

family brushing teeth

Advancing Policy and Systems Change

Changing our health system isn’t easy, but it is essential. We are committed to challenging and transforming traditional models of care to ensure that every person can reach their full potential.

Adding a Dental Benefit to Medicare

Why it's important

Longstanding evidence shows that poor oral health negatively impacts physical, mental, and economic well-being. Yet, nearly one-fourth of the US population does not have dental coverage. Medicare does not mandate coverage for the treatment of dental disease, nor does it cover most dental care, procedures, or supplies. In fact, nearly half of Medicare beneficiaries, or 26 million people, do not have dental coverage as of 2021

There was momentum behind adding dental to Medicare in the fall of 2021, but the social spending proposal was trimmed, keeping the benefit out of the program for now.

Without policy change to help people access oral health care, we will continue to perpetuate unnecessary dental disease and harmful inequities, increasing unsustainable strain on the health care system and economy at large.

What we're doing

We provide resources, educational materials, and grants to support efforts to expand adult dental benefits.

Learn more about adult dental benefits

Champion policy change

provider and patient

Strengthening Adult Dental Benefits in Medicaid

provider with two patients
Why it's important

Within Medicaid, comprehensive dental coverage is mandatory for children, but benefits for Medicaid-eligible adults are optional. And states have flexibility in how they interpret “benefits,” often looking at them for potential cuts when budgets get tight. Not surprisingly, then, Medicaid adult dental coverage varies tremendously across states. As of 2020, 18 states include comprehensive dental benefits in their Medicaid programs. Ten states cover dental care only for emergencies, and three do not provide any coverage at all.

Strengthening dental coverage under the Medicaid program must be a policy priority in this country. 

What we're doing

We provide resources, educational materials, and grants to support state and federal efforts to protect and strengthen adult dental benefits in Medicaid.

Learn more about adult dental benefits

Expanding the Use of Teledentistry

Why it's important

Teledentistry enables providers to triage patients, reserving office visits for those who need them most, while providing oral hygiene advice, prescriptions, or other services virtually as appropriate. The benefits are especially pronounced for certain populations. More than 56 million Americans, for example, live in areas with a shortage of dental professionals. Others face limitations such as impaired mobility, inflexible job schedules, and emotional barriers such as fear of going to the dentist. In sum, teledentistry services can expand oral health access, lower costs, improve health outcomes, and boost patient satisfaction, making it a critical tool for oral health transformation. ​

What we're doing

We are advocating at the state and federal levels to expand access to teledentistry.

Learn more about teledentistry

provider and patient teledentistry appointment

Organizations We're Collaborating with to Improve Oral Health

Together, we champion policy changes that advance equity and incorporate oral health as a core component of our health system.

The Latest

patient with tooth pain
Visual Report

Dental Fear Is Real. Providers Can Help.

provider and patient
Peer-Reviewed Article

Health Equity Needs Teeth

Grandparents with their grandchildren
Upcoming Webinar

Lessons from a Study on Oral Health Care Spending over the Life Span