12 Million People Lost Dental Coverage after COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health
carequest institute for oral health


A new analysis from CareQuest Institute for Oral Health—a leading national nonprofit focused on creating a more accessible, equitable, and integrated oral health system—reveals that 12 million people across the country lost Medicaid dental coverage between April 2023, when the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) expired, and September 2023. That figure includes 5.9 million adults and 6.1 million children. The analysis estimates the number will jump to 13.9 million when data is received through December 31, 2023.

carequest institute for oral health

When the national COVID-19 PHE expired, states began conducting eligibility redeterminations and unenrolling individuals determined to no longer be eligible for their state’s Medicaid program. The new report, An Estimated 12 Million Children and Adults Lost Medicaid Dental Insurance after the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Expired, by CareQuest Institute projects that nearly 10 million of these adults and children were not re-enrolled in dental benefits through the private marketplace or their employer and remained without dental insurance after redetermination.

“These data confirm that we have a long way to go to ensure that everyone has access to necessary oral health coverage, especially those most marginalized by our current system,” said CareQuest Institute for Oral Health CEO and president, Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA. “While coverage alone does not address long-standing oral health and overall health disparities, it is an essential bridge to care that remains out of reach for far too many people.”

Poor oral health has a direct link to a person’s overall health — including greater risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, dementia, mental health, and adverse birth outcomes. Regular preventive dental care significantly saves overall medical and dental care costs. For example, one recent study found that adults with diabetes who were treated for periodontal disease saw their overall health care costs decrease by 12 to 14 percent. In addition, as states grapple with the high costs of emergency department visits, access to preventive dental care has been shown to reduce emergency department visits for oral health problems that are better treated in a dental office.

As community and state organizations support impacted Medicaid enrollees during the redetermination process, there needs to be a focus on the importance of oral health and helping people find new coverage options that include dental benefits. In particular, it is critical for states to act on the new finalized CMS rule that will allow them to add adult dental benefits to the essential health benefits covered by their private market plans.

This analysis supports a previous report in April 2023 that projected more than 14 million people would lose dental coverage during redetermination.

Read the full report and access an interactive map that shows impact by state.

About CareQuest Institute for Oral Health

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health is a national nonprofit championing a more equitable future where every person can reach their full potential through excellent health. We do this through our work in philanthropy, analytics and data insights, health transformation, policy and advocacy, and education as well as our leadership in dental benefits and innovation advancements. We collaborate with thought leaders, health care providers, patients, and local, state, and federal stakeholders, to accelerate oral health care transformation and create a system designed for everyone. To learn more, visit carequest.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.