The Action for Dental Health Report

***UPDATED: April 30, 2015*** Earlier this month, the American Dental Association (ADA) released a report giving an update on the progress made with their Action for Dental Health initiative. “Action for Dental Health Year Two: A Progress Report,” aimed to showcase accomplishments as well as identify future goals of the community-based movement to improve the oral health of America’s underserved populations. According to an ADA News article, the report highlights several efforts made, including work from the Maryland State Dental Association Foundation, which created a pilot program focused on improving dental care for nursing home residents. A similar initiative was created in Morrisville, Vermont at The Manor, a private, nonprofit long-term care facility.  ADA President, Maxine Feinberg said “It is our hope that the momentum we’ve achieved this year will continue to grow in years to come, until all Americans can enjoy the good dental health they deserve.” Action for Dental Health works with 8 initiatives in mind including the expansion of programs like Give Kids A Smile and Missions of Mercy, creating community-based contracting between local dentists and clinics that provide care to the underserved, and increasing dentists’ participation in Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program by reducing the administrative burden and increasing funding. For more information on other initiatives and additional reports, visit ada.org.

In May of last year, the American Dental Association (ADA) launched the “Action for Dental Health” campaign aimed at closing the so-called “dental divide” in America.  To mark the first anniversary of the effort, the ADA released its inaugural “Action for Dental Health: Report to Congress,” to draw attention to the accomplishments of the initiative as well as to point out the work that has yet to be completed.  More than 500 dentists from around the country recently met with Congressional delegates at the Washington Leadership Conference to discuss policy issues to improve dental care in America. The report was first presented here and later reported on in a Dental Tribune article.

According to Dr. Charles Norman, current ADA President, a lot has been accomplished in its first year, but there is still quite a bit to do.  He stated that the report “serves as a continued call to action for elected officials, health policy organization, community leaders and the dental community to come together to bridge the dental divide.” The report identified the following four strategies that have been instrumental in the first year’s success.

  • Providing care now.  Through emergency room referral programs and outreach programs like Give Kids a Smile, hundreds of thousands received immediate, necessary dental care.

  • Fighting for increased dental health protections under Medicaid and helping dentists work better with community health centers and clinics have improved access for many.

  • Educating communities on disease prevention is critical and has been achieved through Community Dental Health Coordinators, providing dental health education and support in connecting to care providers.

  • Working to pass legislation at both the state and federal levels that support Action for Dental Health initiatives.

The report also identified several goals for the campaign in the coming years. They include:

  • Reducing the burden of emergency rooms across the country by creating ER interception programs.

  • Training at least 1,000 dentists to provide care in one of the most underserved populations, nursing homes.

  • Expansion of early screening and treatment programs that are aimed at helping people with limited access and work to eliminate decay in kids under the age of five.

  • Increase the proportion of low income children who received any preventive dental services during the past year by 15%

In recent years, attention has been focused on President Obama’s healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act, drawing attention away from the important issue of access to dental care. It is the hope of most in the dental industry that legislators and individuals alike will start taking their oral health a little more seriously.  For more information and a complete, detailed list of the goals for Action for Dental Health, visit ADA.org/action.

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