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House Committee Moves Congress One Step Closer to Recognizing Dentists as Emergency Responders

Dentists played critical triage role following 9/11 attack

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WASHINGTON, July 29, 2010—A bill that would incorporate dentistry into the federal disaster response framework unanimously passed the House Committee on Energy and Commerce this week. Introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the Dental Emergency Responder Act (H.R. 903), the American Dental Association has for several years lobbied Congress vigorously to pass the bill.

“The vote recognizes the important role dentists have played and can continue to play in the event of national disasters,” said ADA President Dr. Ron L. Tankersley.

“Many federal, state and local officials don’t realize that medical evaluation and triage are important aspects of dentists’ professional education. Following the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, dentists were among the first to triage and treat the wounded,” he added. “They played a critical role in saving lives.”

The ADA said that passing this bill into law would dramatically increase the number of health professionals able to respond to an emergency.

The Dental Responder Enhancement Act would:

  • Incorporate dentists and allied dental personnel into the federal definitions of “public health worker” and “emergency response provider;”
  • Incorporate dentists into the National Health Security Strategy and the operational plan for the National Incident Management System;
  • Clarify that dental schools are eligible to apply for public health and medical response training grants under the federal Centers for Public Health Preparedness program; and
  • Encourage the Department of Homeland Security’s chief medical officer to engage the dental community when addressing medical and public health preparedness issues. 

The bill will move to the full House for a vote after the August recess. The Senate has yet to take up the issue.

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website