NADP Press Release Archives

NADP Analysis Shows Adults with Medicaid Preventive Dental Benefits Have Lower Medical Costs for Chronic Conditions

Nov 23, 2017

DALLAS, Texas – Data from a recent Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) reveals an opportunity for states to provide both better care for the Medicaid population and potentially reduce the financial impact of Medicaid funding, according to an analysis commissioned by the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP). The analysis reveals that when a preventive dental benefit was provided for adult Medicaid recipients in 2014, medical costs for patients with seven chronic conditions were lowered from 31 to 67 percent.

The chronic conditions sampled, costs for medical care for those patients both with and without preventive dental services are presented in the following table:

Health Expenditures for Non-Elderly Adults by Health Condition and by Those with and without a Preventive Dental Visit, 2014



Total Population

(in millions)



Mean Medicaid Payments



With Preventive Dental Care

Without Preventive Dental Care

Expenditure as

% of expenditure of patient without preventive dental care

Total Population








Diagnosis ever provided by physician:





Coronary heart disease







67% lower








36% lower

High blood pressure







31% lower

Heart attack







36% lower








52% lower








45% lower

Other heart disease







45% lower








67% lower

High cholesterol







43% lower








37% lower

Source: Based on a sample of 15,483 non-Medicare adults between the ages of 25 and 64 from the 2014 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The unweighted sample sizes in total and by health condition appear in brackets “[ ]” beneath the corresponding weighted population totals in the first column.

Note: Preventive dental care indicates having at least one dental visit during the year in which there was a cleaning, examination, fluoride treatment or sealant procedure. *Asterisk indicates a statistically significant difference. Conditions for which there was a statistically significant difference are highlighted in yellow.

Estimated standard errors of the means appear in parentheses “( )” and are adjusted for the complex sample design of the MEPS.


The results of this analysis suggest that policies and programs within Medicaid that encourage recipients to receive preventive dental care have the potential to dramatically reduce the health care costs associated with these conditions.

Without preventive dental services provided as a benefit to adult Medicaid recipients, there is a potential for higher health costs as patients lack an important component of their health care needs. Not only are health costs increased for the chronic conditions identified by this analysis, but Medicaid patients without dental care are more likely to visit hospital emergency rooms rather than lower cost community health centers or private offices.

From 2000 to 2010 emergency room visits for dental issues doubled. A 2015 American Dental Association Health Policy Institute Research Brief found that emergency department visits due to dental conditions continued to increase with a system cost of $1.6 billion in 2012. The share of this cost paid by Medicaid also increased in 2012. Estimates indicate that 79 percent of these visits were by patients in need of prescriptions for pain medication or antibiotics for infection. The 2012 increase was primarily for adults over the age 25 as dental care for children through age 25 can be maintained on parents’ dental coverage. Thus, a provision of adult dental preventive services in Medicaid can also reduce this funding for emergency room visits.

NADP focused on 2014 data as this was the first year of Medicaid expansion that brought more adults into the system. “In 2014, 35 states had an adult dental benefit beyond just emergency services. This data shows that funding low cost adult preventive benefits pays dividends to the state in reduced medical costs for those with chronic diseases and for emergency room visits as well,” according to Evelyn Ireland, NADP Executive Director. “Now that the study design is set up, NADP plans to continue the examination of MEPS information as it is released to create longitudinal data of the differences in medical costs when adult preventive dental treatment is funded by state Medicaid programs.”

The MEPS data analysis was conducted by researchers at the Department of Public Health, University of Maryland School of Dentistry to identify the relationship between costs of medical care when patients received preventive dental care from the ages of 25 through 64. University researchers include Research Professor Dr. John Moeller and Professor/Department Chair Dr. Richard Manski.

Professors noted that the mean comparisons only show an association, not a causality, between preventive dental care and Medicaid payments. These factors are estimated without controls in order to identify other possible confounding variables, such as geographic location, that can also influence payments. The views expressed in this press statement are those of NADP, and no official endorsement of by the University of Maryland is intended or should be implied. The researchers were solely responsible for the analysis and development of the tables contained in this report.

About NADP

National Association of Dental Plans (NADP), a Texas nonprofit corporation with headquarters in Dallas, Texas, is the representative and recognized resource of the dental benefits industry. NADP is the only national trade organization that includes the full spectrum of dental benefits companies operating in the United States. NADP’s members provide Dental HMO, Dental PPO, Dental Indemnity and Discount Dental products to more than 184 million Americans with dental benefits. 


Evelyn Ireland

NADP Executive Director

(972) 458-6998, x101



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