Dental services under Title XIX of the Social Security Act, the Medicaid program, are an optional service for the adult population, individuals age 21 and older. However, dental services are a required service for most Medicaid-eligible individuals under the age of 21, as a required component of the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit.
Individuals under Age 21
EPSDT is Medicaid’s comprehensive child health program. The programs’ focus is on prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. EPSDT is a mandatory service required to be provided under a state’s Medicaid program.
Dental services must be provided at intervals that meet reasonable standards of dental practice, as determined by the state after consultation with recognized dental organizations involved in child health, and at such other intervals, as indicated by medical necessity, to determine the existence of a suspected illness or condition. Services must include at a minimum, relief of pain and infections, restoration of teeth and maintenance of dental health. Dental services may not be limited to emergency services for EPSDT recipients.
Oral screening may be part of a physical exam, but does not substitute for a dental examination performed by a dentist as a result of a direct referral to a dentist. A direct dental referral is required for every child in accordance with the periodicity schedule set by the state. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services does not further define what specific dental services must be provided, however, EPSDT requires that all services coverable under the Medicaid program must be provided to EPSDT recipients if determined to be medically necessary. Under the Medicaid program, the state determines medical necessity.
If a condition requiring treatment is discovered during a screening, the state must provide the necessary services to treat that condition, whether or not such services are included in the state’s Medicaid plan.
Individual age 21 and older
States may elect to provide dental services to their adult Medicaid-eligible population or elect not to provide dental services at all as part of its Medicaid program. While most states provide at least emergency dental services for adults, less than half of the states provide comprehensive dental care. There are no minimum requirements for adult dental coverage.