The American Dental Association (ADA) recently released its inaugural “Action for Dental Health: Report to Congress” which recognizes the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Action for Dental Health (ADH) movement and grassroots efforts to eliminate barriers to dental health across the country.
The report was released during the ADA’s annual Washington Leadership Conference where more than 500 dentists from across the country meet with their Congressional delegations to discuss policy issues to improve our nation’s dental health.
“Millions of Americans continue to face barriers to dental care, which is why the ADA launched Action for Dental Health,” said ADA President Charles Norman. “This Report to Congress serves as a continued call to action for elected officials, health policy organizations, community leaders and the dental community to come together to bridge the dental divide.”
Much attention has been paid to the political debate around the Affordable Care Act, while the need for greater access to dental care has been ignored. The ADA report sits several statistics:
- This year alone, more than 181 million Americans won’t visit a dentist
- Nearly half of people over 30 suffer from some form of gum disease
- Nearly one in four children under the age of five already have cavities
- Nationally, more than 2.1 million people showed up in emergency rooms with dental pain in 2010 – that’s double the number just a decade prior.
In response, the ADA created Action for Dental Health, a nationwide, community-based movement to address barriers to dental health through sustainable solutions that provide the best quality of care. ADA reports that Action for Dental Health has already taken root in every state across the U.S.
The report outlines four key strategies:
- Providing care now. This includes hospital emergency room referral programs to connect patients in pain to dentists who can provide needed treatment, and expanding programs like Give Kids a Smile.
- Strengthening and expanding the public/private safety net by fighting for increased dental health protections under Medicaid and helping more dentists work with community health centers and clinics.
- Bringing disease prevention and education into communities through Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHCs) who provide dental health education and help people in underserved areas connect to community health resources and dentists for needed treatment.
- Working to pass Legislation at the federal and state levels that support Action for Dental Health initiatives.
The ADA has set bold goals for Action for Dental Health. These include:
- Creating ER interception programs to reduce the burden on our nation’s emergency rooms and improving dental health in 25 states by 2015, and 50 states and the District of Columbia by 2020.
- Training at least 1,000 dentists to provide care in nursing homes by 2020, and increasing the number of dentists serving on advisory boards or as dental directors of long-term care facilities
- Expanding programs which provide screening and treatment to help people in need connect with dentists for continuity of care and work to eliminate cavities in children under five in the U.S. by 2020
- Improving the existing safety net and helping people connect with community resources and dentists by increasing the number of states with active Community Dental Health Coordinators to 15 states by 2015 (Currently there are CDHCs in 8 states.)
- Reducing the proportion of both adults and children under 18 with untreated dental decay by 15 percent by 2020
- Increasing the proportion of low income children who received any preventive dental services during the past year by 15 percent by 2020.
To review detailed goals for Action for Dental Health, or to download the “Action for Dental Health: Report to Congress” visit ADA.org/action.