Dental Campaign

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More than 48 million people in the United States live in areas with dentist shortages. Access to care is also limited for the 72 million children and adults who rely on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program: Only about one-third of U.S. dentists accept public insurance.

Left untreated, dental health problems can cause pain and tooth loss, impair children’s growth and social development, impede productivity and job opportunities, exacerbate chronic conditions, and complicate detection of oral cancers. And when dental pain becomes too severe to ignore, many people—more than 2 million in 2012—resort to emergency room visits, which provide no treatment for underlying oral health problems but have a high price for patients and taxpayers: $1.6 billion in 2012, with Medicaid’s share totaling $520 million.

Pew’s dental campaign works to close gaps in dental care access by increasing the number of available providers and expanding the reach of preventive services through the use of dental sealant programs in high-need schools. Research shows that such programs are a valuable, cost-effective way to treat the children most at risk of tooth decay

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This Dental Therapist Is Filling a Gap in U.S. Health Care

In Minnesota, one woman’s vital role.

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Who Lacks Access?

Certain populations face more serious barriers to dental care access.

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Our Work

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  • Michigan Senate Advances Dental Therapy Legislation

    With broad bipartisan support, the Michigan Senate passed legislation Oct. 11 to authorize dental therapists to practice in the state. S.B. 541, sponsored by state Senator Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), would help address Michigan’s serious dental access challenges by increasing the availability of dental providers able to care for patients’ routine oral health needs. The bill has been... Read More

  • Dental Therapists Could Provide Cost-Efficient Care in Veterans’ Nursing Homes

    The number of senior citizens (ages 65 and older) in the United States is expected to double to more than 98 million by 2060. The Census Bureau predicts that by 2030 the U.S. will be home to about 9 million people age 85 and older, many of whom will face mobility challenges. Compared with earlier decades, more seniors are expected to still have their teeth and will need continuing dental care.... Read More

  • Arizona Advocates Push for Dental Therapists

    More than 2 million Arizonans struggle to access the dental care they need to lead healthy, productive lives. Now Dental Care for Arizona is advocating that the state Legislature be allowed to consider giving dental providers the ability to address the significant need for care in their communities. Read More

Working With Midlevel Providers

Dentists share their perspectives on these practitioners.

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Media Contact

Jennifer Stapleton

Manager, Communications