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ADA Statement on Improving Access to Oral Health for the Underserved

February 07, 2015

Contact Information:
E-mail: mediarelations@ada.org (Journalists) or Contact ADA (All Others)

CHICAGO — The American Dental Association (ADA) applauds the University of Florida’s American Student Dental Association for its ongoing commitment to foster open discussion about oral health issues through educational forums.

When it comes to affordability and access to health care, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why the ADA launched Action for Dental Health, a nationwide, community-based movement that provides care now to those already suffering from dental disease, strengthens and expands the public/private safety net, and brings dental health education and disease prevention into underserved communities.

Unlike proposals that will take years to implement, Action for Dental Health is comprised of here-and-now solutions led by ADA dentists working with existing dental team members in an efficient proven system that are getting more people the care that they need now.

A recent report by the ADA’s Health Policy Institute should put to rest any speculation about a future dentist shortage. The research shows that the number of dentists practicing per 100,000 people today has climbed more than 4 percent from 2003 to 2013, and is projected to climb 1.5 percent from 2013 to 2018 and 2.6 percent by 2033. The supply of dentists is adequate to serve America’s needs.

However, the ADA recognizes that people in underserved communities have difficulties connecting to public health resources and dentists who can provide needed treatment. To address this, the ADA created a new dental team member, the Community Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC). CDHCs are already active in eight states, and a community college in Florida is adopting the CDHC curriculum and will start accepting students later this year.

Access to dental care is improving for children. A Health Policy Institute study shows the rate of children visiting the dentist was at its highest in 2012, and from 2000 to 2010 dental visits among low-income children increased in 47 states. Recent preliminary unpublished data shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates a downward trend in early childhood caries with increased treatment of children.

The ADA is helping communities develop programs that fit their unique needs. While others may be looking far out and far away — lobbying for laws to be changed, new educational systems to be built and the introduction of new types of providers — the American Dental Association, individual dentists, and the many public and private partners in Action for Dental Health are providing care today to the people who need it most.

About the ADA

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 159,000 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 ADA.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website MouthHealthy.org