NORFOLK, Va. - More than 750,000 Virginians now have access to dental care with new Medicaid benefits that went into effect July 1.
The benefit covers regular cleanings and preventive care, X-rays, dentures and even surgery.
Dentists say the coverage is needed now more than ever.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on many people's dental health. A Health Policy Institute survey released in March found that 70 percent of dentists nationwide saw more people coming in with teeth grinding and clenching, which are often associated with stress.
Sixty percent saw other stress-related issues like chipped teeth and cracked teeth, and in a different survey last fall, dentists reported an increase in cavities.
Suffolk dentist Dr. Dani Howell says when people wait to be treated, it makes the problem even worse.
"Things that, six months, a year ago, might have been a small filling, are now a root canal or an extraction, so being able to provide that preventative care to prevent a patient from losing their tooth in the long run is, I mean, it's what the point of dentistry is," Howell said.
Howell says the impact goes beyond that too, since oral health can impact so many things, such as high blood pressure and complications during pregnancy.
To start using the new benefits, the first step is to find a dentist who accepts Medicaid coverage.
Since so many people now have coverage, Howell says some dentists may not be able to accept everyone, so start looking for a dentist as soon as possible.
You can search for dentists here.
There are also transportation services available for people who need a ride to their appointments.
Click here for everything you need to know about the new benefits.