The Role of Medicaid Adult Dental Benefits During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Published 04/09/2023

During pregnancy, oral health care is essential, yet often underutilized.  

According to a report from CareQuest Institute, approximately 60–75% of pregnant people experience oral health issues that raise the likelihood of poor birth outcomes and major complications. These percentages are even higher for expecting Black women, who are 27% more likely to experience severe pregnancy complications than white women.

Importance of Oral Health During Pregnancy 

The report, which includes state-specific information and insights, explains the importance of oral health during pregnancy and postpartum as well as the barriers many pregnant people face to accessing oral health care. Key points include:  

  • Poor oral health during pregnancy has been linked to adverse birth outcomes, including preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), preterm birth, and low-birth-weight infants. 
  • Women enrolled in Medicaid had significantly lower odds of visiting a dentist for a cleaning during pregnancy compared with women covered by private health insurance. 
  • Black pregnant women without dental coverage were more than 30% less likely to visit a dentist. 
  • Less than half (44%) of pregnant persons received dental care during their pregnancy, primarily due to financial barriers. 
  • Only one third (35%) of obstetricians and nurse midwives discussed oral health with their pregnant patients, and 77% of obstetricians reported that some patients had been “declined” treatment by dentists, although dental care during pregnancy is safe. 

The report recommends four specific actions that state and federal policymakers can take to address barriers to care for pregnant people; the top recommendation is to extend postpartum coverage in Medicaid from 60 days to at least 12 months. 

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