SPRINGFIELD, Ill. • Illinois’ Medicaid program will soon provide preventative dental care for almost half a million low-income residents.

The expansion of dental coverage is estimated to cost the state an additional $8 million to $12 million annually, half of which the federal government will reimburse. Dental services include periodic exams and teeth cleanings that’ll come with minimal out of pocket costs.

The expansion is expected to create savings by avoiding or delaying costly restorative services for adults, such as fillings and extractions, said Democratic Rep. Greg Harris of Chicago.

“The idea is to get the care earlier, when it is cheaper,” said Greg Johnson, the executive director of the Illinois State Dental Society.

Johnson said most of the state’s 1.7 million Medicaid recipients are covered for preventative dental service through managed-care organizations, which have voluntarily paid dental office. Those organizations will begin receiving reimbursement for services, but the legislation will have the largest impact on the 450,000 recipients who aren’t in managed care, he said.

Those Medicaid patients are instead a part of the “fee-for-service” program that charges them more than the current Medicaid co-payment for cleanings and checkups, according to Johnson.

He said about 2,800 of the state’s approximately 9,000 regularly practicing dentists accept patients in the Medicaid program.

The state already funds preventative dental services for children on Medicaid.

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Dental checkups, cleanings will be covered for Illinois’ Medicaid program