New law gives dental benefits to patients with IDD

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 5:10 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The new Medicaid Adult Dental Waiver program which covers the cost of thorough dental services for patients with IDD became effective on July 1, 2022. The program will allow patients with intellectual disabilities to be eligible for comprehensive dental benefits.

Kathy Dwyer is the caregiver of her adult daughter Jenn who has IDD. It’s an intellectual developmental disability that leads to many complications with poor oral hygiene.

Dr. Jacob Dent explains, “Most IDD adult patients, and I would say this is 80 plus percent, have had limited or no access to dental care which has allowed them to develop gum disease. Which obviously we know becomes more of a systemic disease as well.”

It’s a reality that patients with IDD face. After the age of 21, dental care is limited and at times non-existent due to a lack of insurance coverage. And that lack of preventative care often leads to many diseases.

“When it comes to gum disease, heart disease, stroke, intellectual diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, you become a higher risk for that, cardiovascular, diabetes, even down to things that involve early term pregnancies, low birth weight in children,” says Dr. Dent.

But now, Medicaid will cover things like general anesthesia. That means a patient’s ability to be sedated during a dental visit will no longer be an out-of-pocket cost as it once was for Jenn and her mom.

Dwyer explains that having anesthesia covered is a big help, “Having to then go, have those procedures done under general anesthesia increased the cost significantly, for a general dental exam and cleaning it cost us a little over $3,600.”

And with this new legislation passed, Dr. Damien Cuffie, Director of Louisiana DentaQuest, says patients no longer have to worry about or put off certain procedures, “Prior to the age of 21, they had pretty much full dental coverage. They could get cleaning done every six months, teeth extracted, crowns replaced, you know any restorative work that was needed. But once they turned 21 those benefits changed so now those benefits are extending beyond 21 throughout their adult life.”

It’s something that Dwyer says has been a long time coming, “I’m over the moon about it, to be honest.”

In order to have access to these benefits, you must also be a recipient of a disability waiver.

For more information on how to apply, you can contact your regional human services department.