Under federal mandates, all children from low-income families enrolled in Medicaid are guaranteed dental coverage across the United States. Unfortunately for adults, the inclusion of dental coverage with Medicaid benefits is much less common, and varies across state lines.
In many of the states offering dental benefits under Medicaid, the coverage is minimal and often only applicable in emergency situations. Only 17 states offer comprehensive dental coverage; most offer little to no coverage.
This lack of coverage for dental care results in obvious health problems, but it can also have socioeconomic consequences.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, the problem of poor dental care goes beyond health, affecting many Americans’ ability to interview for jobs. A study conducted by the American Dental Association found that one-third of adults eligible for Medicaid report that the appearance of their teeth is a major hindrance to their ability to interview for a job.
The ADA’s study, while based on self-reported perceptions among respondents, has parallels to other work on the social stigma associated with poor oral health. In Brazil, researchers asked hiring managers to evaluate images of candidates with varying degrees of dental esthetics. They found that the candidates showing malocclusion were considered not only less employable than those with ideal teeth, but also less intelligent.
We’ve written here before about the link between oral health and overall health. It seems that oral health also has broader social implications.