Action for Dental Health Act of 2017

When representatives work together, their efforts rarely make the headlines. Therefore, you may have missed the fact that, earlier this year, they did just that. How? In a show of bipartisan support, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Action for Dental Health Act of 2017 (HR 2422). The vote was 387-13.

About the Action for Dental Health Act of 2017

In February, the House of Representatives voted 387-13 to improve oral health. It passed the Action for Dental Health Act of 2017.

Watch the video: Dental Health Act of 2017

In addition to having bipartisan support, the act is bipartisan in origin. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho introduced  the act last year. It calls for Congress “to…improve essential oral health care for low-income and other underserved individuals.”

The goal of the act is to help improve oral health for children, seniors, and others. Now, that’s a goal we can all get behind! In fact, it would authorize grants and funds totaling $32 million a year for the next 5 years.

Schools, local dental societies and state dental associations would be eligible to receive the funds. In addition, state and local health and/or dental departments would be eligible.

Debate on the Hill…

When the House of Representatives debated the bill, Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, called for his fellow members to vote for the act. “The lack of basic oral health services in some communities today leads many Americans to delay treatment,” Green said.

Rep. Mike Burgess, R-Texas, seconded Green’s remarks. “Good oral health is an important component of good overall health. And this bill takes important steps to help,” Burgess, who is also a physician, said.

“A huge victory…”

Joseph P. Crowley, President of the American Dental Association (ADA), called the legislation’s progress, “a huge victory for dentistry and patients everywhere,” the ADA reported.

Dental Health Act of 2017 - detailsAccording to the ADA, the legislation has the potential to lead to the following benefits:

  • Better oral health education and dental disease prevention
  • Less use of emergency rooms for dental care
  • The establishment of dental homes for patients
  • Fewer barriers, including language barriers and cultural barriers, to receiving care
  • Improved dental care for nursing home residents

Improving access to oral health resources

According to the Adults Oral Health & Well Being Survey, dentists recently topped the list of health practitioners to whom Americans want more frequent access. More than a thousand Americans took part in the research, which was conducted in late 2017 by Delta Dental Plans Association.

In addition, the survey found that more than three quarters of Americans (85%) believe oral health is “very” or “extremely” important to their overall health. However, nearly half (42%) said they do not get to see a dentist as often as they would like.

Moreover, only a quarter (25%) of Americans are “extremely satisfied” with their oral health. Only about half (49%) were “somewhat” satisfied. Surprisingly, a mere 15% of the respondents said their oral health was “excellent.”

Support for the Action for Dental Health Act of 2017

Both the ADA and National Dental Association have endorsed the Action for Dental Health Act of 2017.

Jonathan Ford, DMD, a general dentist at Ford Dental Group in Huntington Beach, California, has written in favor of the act. “As someone who has worked closely with a large, free dental clinic, I know the bare-bones costs are close to $500,000 to treat 2000-plus patients over two days. HR 2422 will focus on getting money to efforts like these, with its ultimate goal to improve oral health in underserved populations across the United States.”

A vote in the Senate is the next hurdle for the act. Then, if passed, it will progress to the president for his signature, after which it would become law.

Read next: How Dental Health Affects Your Heart

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