A dental coalition is working to restore basic oral health benefits to help improve oral health among adults with low incomes.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The Help Minnesota Smile Coalition — a partnership between the Minnesota Dental Association (MDA) and Dental Access Partners (Apple Tree Dental, Community Dental Care, and Hennepin Healthcare) — is advocating for a full restoration of essential adult dental benefits that were cut by the Minnesota legislature in 2009.

Current benefits in the Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) is limited in what it is covered and leaves out many essential benefits that individuals receive through private dental benefit.  For example, the current benefit set only covers one of the two major diseases of the mouth: tooth decay. Adults with low incomes do not have access to benefits that help the fight gum disease, the other major disease of the mouth.

Left untreated, dental diseases negatively impact overall health and well-being. Bacteria from the mouth can cause infection in other parts of the body, especially when the immune system has been compromised by disease or medical treatments. Good oral health not only helps prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease, it also can help decrease the impact of other diseases on overall health. An unhealthy mouth may increase the risk of serious and costly health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even preterm labor.

Aside from improving the overall dental health of Minnesotans, reinstating dental benefits would also ensure a more efficient use of health care dollars. For example, a 2014 report from Minnesota’s Department of Human Services showed Minnesota spent nearly $50 million per year on oral health visits in ERs across the state. Instead of distributing antibiotics for infections and providing temporary relief for health issues, the Help Minnesota Smile coalition is advocating for these dollars to instead be spent on preventative care.

By restoring full adult dental coverage, Minnesota will once again support the health and wellness of those who are most at risk. The Minnesota Dental Association and Dental Access Partners are joined by several other organizations to advocate for legislation to restore the adult dental benefit set and to expand Medical Assistance to cover nonsurgical treatment for adult periodontal disease. We believe that these efforts will have a positive impact on the oral health of low-income adults, adults with disabilities, and older adults. To learn more about the Help Minnesota Smile coalition and how you can help restore health care benefits, visit helpmnsmile.org.

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 www.mndental.org.