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Dental Facts Friday: Bridging the Dental Health Divide

February 2, 2015

Bridging the Dental Health Divide

A bi-partisan bill called ‘Action for Dental Health Act of 2015’ was introduced at the U.S. Congress on January 29, 2015. It will attempt to bridge the dental health divide in the U.S. by allowing organizations to qualify for HHS oral health grants to support activities that improve oral health education and dental disease prevention, including developing and expanding outreach programs that will facilitate establishing dental homes for children and adults, including the elderly, blind and disabled.

This legislation will target crucial federal dollars to state and local dental organizations to provide proven oral health care services in a manner that effectively addresses the barriers to dental care many Americans face. This bill would have a significant impact on many underserved communities.

Action for Dental Health

Action for Dental Health

The need is clear, according to Harris Interactive data released by the ADA. The study confirmed a disturbing dental divide in America:

  • Nearly half of lower-income adults say they haven’t seen a dentist in a year or longer, while the vast majority of middle- and higher-income wage earners (70 percent) have.
  • Lower-income adults 18 and older are more than two times as likely as middle- and higher-income adults to have had all of their teeth removed (7 percent vs. 3 percent).
  • Nearly one in five (18 percent) lower-income adults have reported that they or a household member has sought treatment for dental pain in an emergency room at some point in their lives, compared to only seven percent of middle- and higher-income adults.
  • Only six percent of those low-income adults who went to the ER reported that the problem was solved.

Need for Low-Income Oral Health Care

Dental Health Divide in America

Dental Health Divide in America

“We’re delighted that these bipartisan members of Congress understand the need for action and are supporting us in this ambitious undertaking,” said American Dentist Association President Dr. Maxine Feinberg. “Dentists across the country are taking up this challenge with renewed determination. But we can’t do this alone. We need everyone with a stake in a healthier nation to join us.”

“Early diagnosis, intervention and preventive treatments can stop the progress of most oral diseases,” said the bill’s co-sponsor, one of the two practicing dentists who are U.S. Congress. “Not only do individuals often suffer from severe pain, but it also adds unnecessary costs to the health care delivery system, costs that could have been minimized or eliminated had the disease been caught in its early stages.”

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