Winston-Salem Journal: Oral Health Crisis

Apr 18, 2024
Dr. Frank Courts describes the oral health crisis due to Medicaid expansion and its effect on North Carolina dentists.

Approximately 600,000 adults in North Carolina are now receiving Medicaid health coverage as the result of Medicaid expansion this month. Preventing disease and providing early treatment for people is a critical step toward a healthier North Carolina. Unfortunately, despite Medicaid coverage, many of these folks will have limited access to oral health care. The North Carolina Medicaid dental provider network is in serious crisis. While 45% of North Carolina dentists are Medicaid providers, most are no longer accepting new Medicaid patients. Why? With the COVID pandemic and resultant inflation, the actual cost of providing dental care is significantly higher than Medicaid reimbursement rates, which are at the same level as in 2008.


Recent evidence indicates a person’s general health is closely connected to his or her oral health. Conditions such as diabetes, pregnancy, cardiac disease, arthritis, stroke and dementia all have been shown to be negatively affected by poor oral health. Providing quality oral health care to these populations could save hundreds of millions of dollars in future medical costs and greatly improve quality of life.


The people of North Carolina deserve an oral health care system that contributes to their overall health. It is incumbent on state leaders to find ways to adequately fund dental care for Medicaid recipients. Accomplishing this will save state funds in the long run and result in a healthier and more productive population.


Dr. Frank Courts



The writer is chair of the N.C. Dental Society Council on Oral Health and Prevention Source: Winston-Salem Journal Article