dental care

Medicare and Oral Health


Does basic Medicare cover regular dental visits?
A)    Yes
B)    No
C)    I’m not sure…

If you answered A or C, you aren’t alone, as a recent Washington Dental Service Foundation survey showed 51% of respondents in Spokane believe Medicare covers dental. However, you would be wrong.

Correct answer: B) No, basic Medicare does not cover dental, and a lot of folks entering retirement are learning this the hard way. A recent article in The Spokesman Review talks about what steps folks approaching retirement should take for their oral health.

Good oral health relates to a lot more than just our teeth; our ability to chew effects the nutrition we receive, our ability to smile effects our confidence, and chronic conditions like Type 2 Diabetes can exacerbate dental decay.

Organizations like Smile Spokane, WDSF’s The Mighty Mouth, and our subsidiary Better Health Together's DENT program are helping connect folks to the dental care they need, but for lasting change, we need a health care system that includes our mouths in our health. To learn more about EHF’s involvement in our community's oral health, view our Oral Health Access Document here. 

Good Oral Health for Spokane Residents

You may have heard our health system in the US described as “decapitated” because our primary care providers treat the physical health of our bodies, but our heads, including mental health and oral health, are treated separately. Moving towards an integrated health system that treats the whole person will be a crucial step for health systems transformations, and in improving the health of our region.

Here in the Spokane area, programs like The Mighty Mouth, Smile Spokane, and DENT, are helping to raise community investment in Oral Health, but there is a lot of work to be done. A recent article in The Spokesman Review on the DENT program has helped start conversations around the shortfalls in our region's access to care. In Spokane 40% of children have experienced tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten. Over 30% of adults have lost one or more of their teeth to decay.[1] Not to mention with the increasing amount of sugar in American diets, regular flossing and brushing isn’t always enough to fight cavities. We don’t always think of how our teeth relate to our overall health, but tooth decay and gum disease can worsen chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

We’ve recently released our Oral Health Access document, which expresses our commitment to improving oral health access and some suggestions for how we can address oral health as a community. Please read and share!


[1] Spokane Regional Health District. (Nov 2010). 10 Things You Need to Know About Oral Health in Spokane County.

Seattle Times Article about Access to Dental Care in Washington State

Check out this intriguing article from the Seattle Times about access to dental care in Washington State.  While approximately 25% of Washington residents have dental insurance through Medicaid, as the article states, "Dental insurance doesn't mean access to care."  Only 3 in 10 dentists accept Medicaid, and according to the article, dental trouble was the number one reason people went to the emergency room in 2010 (see image below).


In an effort to address this problem in our region, our subsidiary Better Health Together's Dental Emergencies Needing Treatment (DENT) program aims to reduce unnecessary ER and hospital visits for dental problems by connecting clients to dental providers who accept Medicaid, as well as by growing the network of providers who accept Medicaid.  In its first six months, the program generated an estimated $634,000 in savings by helping patients access more appropriate dental care.

Learn more about DENT on BHT's website.