Policy Brief Reveals Gaping Deficiencies in Dental Access for Tennesseans 

Jennifer Johnson | January 27, 2022

 Nashville, TN- The Tennessee Justice Center has authored a public policy brief that shines a disturbing light on the oral health of Tennessee residents and identifies the barriers preventing more than a million Tennesseans from having access to basic dental care. When it comes to dental access and oral health outcomes, Tennessee ranks near the bottom nationally. Low-income families, people of color, and those living in rural parts of the state are at a higher risk due to lack of insurance and/or the provider shortage that exists in many areas. 

Kinika Young, Senior Director of Health Policy and Equity for the TN Justice Center says, “Federal law requires state Medicaid programs to include dental benefits for children because they recognize dental care is essential to healthy child development. For adult enrollees, it is optional, and unfortunately, Tennessee is one of only three states in the country that does not currently offer dental benefits to adult Medicaid enrollees. Even if it did, only 30% of Tennessee dentists see Medicaid patients. That’s a huge problem.” 



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