Saint Paul — A coalition of organizations who provide dental care across Minnesota said today the state must do a better job increasing dental care access for the state’s children and vulnerable adults.

Minnesota currently ranks dead last – 50th of the 50 states – when it comes to Medicaid funding rates for pediatric dental services (see Health Policy Institute Research Brief here, pp. 7 & 9). Minnesota is also near the bottom – fourth worst – in funding rates for adult dental care services (p. 10). Because of the low payment rates, many dental clinics – especially small and rural clinics – cannot afford to serve low-income patients, contributing to Minnesota’s current access crisis where low-income patients with serious dental problems cannot get the treatment they need.

The coalition includes the Minnesota Dental Association, Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, Community Dental Care, Park Dental, Apple Tree Dental, Hennepin County Medical Center, the University of Minnesota, the Safety Net Coalition, Delta Dental of Minnesota, Minnesota Association of County Health Plans, HealthPartners, Dental Associates of St. Paul and Children’s Dental Services.

The group is calling on the legislature and Governor Dayton to increase the state’s funding levels for dental care from the bottom of the pack to the average among the states. Doing so would cost approximately $112 million over the upcoming two-year biennium (FY 16-17) and those funds would be matched dollar-for-dollar by the federal government. The state’s General Fund spending for FY 16-17 is projected to be $41.2 billion, making the request less than 0.3% of the state budget.

The proposal would not increase eligibility, rather it would focus on providing additional funding to increase dental care access, which is particularly needed in Greater Minnesota where three counties currently have no dentists and several have dentist ratios of 1 dentist per 10,000 residents or 1 dentist per 5,000 residents.

The coalition pointed out that better access to dental care will mean fewer emergency room visits which will save taxpayers money for uncompensated care. The cost of dental-related visits to hospital emergency rooms in Minnesota has been estimated at $148 million over the past three years.

The group also criticized a proposal in the Governor’s budget to eliminate Critical Access Dental (CAD) payments for MinnesotaCare, which will hurt dental care access even as the state already has extremely low rankings.

“As it stands, Minnesota should be too embarrassed to smile. Ranking dead last in the nation for children’s dental care funding levels and near the bottom for vulnerable adults does not reflect Minnesota values,” said Dr. Michael Helgeson of Apple Tree Dental. “Increasing funding for dental care access is both the right thing to do and the fiscally wise thing to do. We are hopeful that legislators of both parties and Governor Dayton will work with us this session to improve dental care access for children and those in need and help Minnesota smile again.”

The Minnesota Dental Association is the voice of dentistry in Minnesota, representing practicing dentists. It is committed to the highest standards of oral health and access to care for all Minnesotans. You can learn more at