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Booker, Cassidy, Hirono, Scott Introduce Bill to Increase Access to Oral Health Care for Underserved Communities

June 7, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Action for Dental Health Act of 2018, a bill that would reauthorize initiatives that increase access to oral health treatment and prevention services, particularly for underserved communities.

“Oral health is an important part of one’s overall health and well-being, but many people lack access to these essential services -- especially those from underserved communities,” Senator Booker said. “This legislation takes a vital step in addressing those gaps and increasing families’ access to oral health care and preventive services.”

“This will target resources to underserved communities and provide greater access to disadvantaged patients,” Dr. Cassidy said. “Giving children and adults the oral health education and dental disease treatment they need to thrive will empower them to reach their full potential.”

“Dental health is critical to overall health outcomes, but too many Hawaii families are unable to find or afford the dental care they need,” Hirono said. “This bill would increase resources for communities across Hawaii to establish regular dental care and reduce barriers to accessing dental services.”

“Dental care is an important part of our overall health and we should work to make sure families have access to basic oral care,” Scott said. “I am confident this legislation will help promote better education of dental services and improve availability of care across the country, even in our most underserved communities. I am proud to support the Action for Dental Health Act alongside Senators Booker, Cassidy, and Hirono and look forward to the Senate considering this important measure in the near future.”

“Everybody deserves good oral health. The Action for Dental Health Act will help Americans improve essential oral health care for low-income and other underserved individuals by breaking down barriers to care,” Dr. Joseph P. Crowley, president of the American Dental Association, said. “It will also help organizations qualify for oral health grants to develop and expand programs that establish dental homes for children, adults, the elderly, blind and disabled at no extra burden to taxpayers.”

“We applaud the bipartisan efforts of Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) for co-sponsoring this important bill that will help improve oral health education outreach programs and dental disease prevention in our communities and underserved populations,” Crowley continued. “The Action for Dental Health Act will bring greater access to oral health care to all American families.”

Poor oral health is a risk, as it can lead to various conditions, including tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer.  It can even be linked to other health issues, such as diabetes, heart disease, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Many of these conditions can be avoided by preventive measures, such as regular cleanings.

Specifically, this legislation would:

·     Reauthorize oral health promotion and disease prevention activities at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as school-based dental sealant programs and support for community water fluoridation

·     Establish an Action for Dental Health Program to improve oral health education and reduce barriers to oral health care.

·     Reauthorize and expand a grant program through the Health Resources and Services Administration that helps states increase their oral health workforce and provide needed dental care, particularly in underserved communities.

The Action for Dental Health Act is supported by the following organizations:

American Dental Association

Academy of General Dentistry

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

American Academy of Periodontology

American Association of Dental Research

American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology

American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons

American Association of Women Dentists

American College of Prosthodontists

American Dental Education Association

American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists

Families USA

National Dental Association

Oral Health America