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Dental Medicaid Utilization by Pregnant Women

photo of Pregnant woman

  Share these facts to help improve the oral health of pregnant women.

Key Facts

  • In many states, being pregnant qualifies some women for Medicaid dental coverage and thus access to oral health care that they don’t have during other periods of their lives. 1

  • Medicaid is the nation’s largest payer of maternity-related services, covering the delivery of 40 to 50 percent of all births in the United States. Although pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid are entitled to “pregnancy-related services,” oral care is not explicitly included as a pregnancy-related service. 2

  • Inadequate data make it difficult to determine how many pregnant wom­en are getting the oral health care they need. The federal government does not mandate that state Medicaid programs provide dental coverage for pregnant women; therefore, pregnant women’s utilization of oral health care is not typically reported. 3

  • During 2009–2011, among 4,735 Asian and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander women in Hawaii who had a live birth, only 44 percent of women enrolled in Medicaid had a teeth cleaning within a 2-year time period (12 months before pregnancy through 3 months postpartum) compared to 71 percent of women with private health insurance. 4

  • For non-Hispanic blacks born between 1979 and 1991, expanded Medicaid eligibility to pregnant women and infants is linked to better oral health as a young adult, with a significant decrease in the likelihood of the loss of any permanent teeth. 5


  1. Kloetzel MK, Huebner CE, Milgrom P. 2011. Referrals for dental care during pregnancy. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health 56(2)110–117.

  2. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2012. Medicaid’s Role for Women Across the Lifespan: Current Issues and the Impact of the Affordable Care Act. Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

  3. Children’s Dental Health Project. 2018. Oral Health During Pregnancy: Oral Health’s Unanswered Questions. Washington, DC: Children's Dental Health Project.

  4. Hayes DK, Turnure M, Mattheus DJ, Shannon MT. 2015. Predictors of dental cleaning over a two-year time period around pregnancy among Asian and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander race subgroups in Hawaii, 2009–2011. Hawaii Journal of Medical Public Health 74(10):328–33.

  5. Lipton BJ, Wherry LR, Miller S, Kenney GM, Decker S. 2016. Previous Medicaid expansion may have had lasting positive effects on oral health of non-Hispanic black children. Health Affairs 35(12):2249–2258.

Assistance from an Information Specialist