Amid all the buzz about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and changes in medical health insurance, dental health has fallen off the radar. Unfortunately, many of the mandates and affordable options that apply to medical health insurance do not apply to adult dental coverage. However, improvements have been made to children’s dental coverage.

The State of US Dental Care for Adults and Seniors

Dental care for adults continues to be hard to obtain, despite the ACA changes. Dental coverage is not an essential health benefit, and employers who are required to offer medical insurance are not required to offer a dental plan. Dental services are also not required to be a part of Medicaid coverage for adults.

Dental care for seniors is also not guaranteed either, as most dental services are not covered by Medicare. If a senior wants coverage for basic services like cleanings, fillings, tooth extractions, dentures, dental plates, or other dental devices, they will need to obtain separate insurance. Unfortunately, that isn’t affordable for many seniors.

Poor dental health is linked to poor health in many other areas. Unfortunately, dental care insurance continues to take a back seat even as many other health issues for adults are addressed. Over 100 million American adults lack dental care insurance.

For those who lack dental care coverage, there are a few alternate options. Federally qualified health centers offer dental care with payments on a sliding scale based on income. You can find a health center using this website. In addition, some dental schools have clinics that offer lower-cost dental care, and some health insurance plans also include discounts on specific dental services. However, if you expect to need extensive work or have a family history of oral health issues, purchasing dental care insurance is the way to go.

U.S. Dental Care for Children

Unlike the adult situation, dental care for children is considered an essential health benefit that must be provided by health insurance plans. In addition, Medicaid must provide dental care coverage for children up to the age of 18.

However, there is still a lot of variance in exactly what services are covered, even for children. Medicaid varies state to state, so each state sets its own guidelines. Most states use only 2 percent of their Medicaid budgets for dental care.

If you struggle to get appropriate dental care for your children, or you need services that aren’t covered, consider a lower-cost dental clinic or a local dental college. You may also be able to work out a payment plan with a dental provider or open a line of credit.

Both adults and children can struggle to access dental care, depending on what services are needed. Unfortunately, even with recent healthcare reforms there hasn’t been much focus on improving this situation. Dental care for seniors is also severely lacking, as many of them cannot afford additional fees or premiums. The best options are to obtain a dental care insurance policy if you can, make sure you know where affordable dental clinics are in your area, and maintain good dental hygiene at home to prevent major problems from occurring.

To learn about getting affordable dental care with a low income, read Dental Care Options for Low Income Americans.