Archived Story

Minn. is lacking in dental care

Published 6:13am Sunday, March 17, 2013

I recently attended Dental Day at the Minnesota Capitol and was pleased to be among the 130 members of the Minnesota Dental Association in attendance. My colleagues and I spent the day speaking with legislators about issues important to the dental health of Minnesotans.

In particular, we dentists are concerned about the continuing disparities that exist for the underserved populations access to dental care. A recent report released by the Minnesota Department of Health on the status of Minnesotan’s oral health showed 55 percent of third-graders experience tooth decay and that low-income children and adults suffer disproportionately from oral diseases.

I work hard in my dental practice in Albert Lea trying to care for as many people as I can, but the current system for treating the state’s medical assistance population is broken and must be remedied. My office gets 10 to 15 calls a day from people seeking medical assisted, free dental care. We are unable to accommodate the request because the rate of reimbursement would not pay for my staff much less the rest of the overhead. This broken system puts an unnecessary burden on our emergency rooms where $49 million are spent annually on dental non-traumatic pain and suffering with little more treatment than an analgesic and an antibiotic only to return in three or four months with the same problem.

Currently dental providers are reimbursed based on 1989-92 rates and have not been increased since 1999. That’s 14 years. This rate places Minnesota 43rd nationally in dental fee reimbursements. This fee structure is woefully inadequate and is pretty much an insult to our profession and the services we provide. It is impossible for me or any other dental provider to meet the needs of Minnesota’s public programs under this system. That is why the MDA is proposing a bill at the Legislature that would bring dental fee reimbursement rates in line with current fee schedules. Actually, the request, if met, would bring the fees to 75 percent of 2007 fees. This bill is similar to action taken by other states that has proven to significantly increase the provider network and improve oral health outcomes. This is an “ask” that is long overdue and could ensure all Minnesotans have access to quality dental care regardless of socio-economic status.


Steve Schwartz


Albert Lea Dental Care

Albert Lea