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ADA testifies on Capitol Hill

Chicago dentist urges support for Action for Dental Health bill

May 17, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin


On the Hill: Dr. Cheryl D. Watson-Lowry testifies on behalf of the ADA's Action for Dental Health initiative during a May 17 congressional hearing. Photo courtesy of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Washington — The Action for Dental Health Act has the potential to "positively affect every patient in my practice, which is why I am so passionate about it," Dr. Cheryl D. Watson-Lowry told Congress during the May 17 hearing, "Examining Initiatives to Advance Public Health."

The Association was invited to testify at the congressional hearing — which was part of the House's Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Health.

During her testimony for the ADA, Dr. Watson-Lowry, a Chicago general dentist, shared her enthusiasm for the Action for Dental Health Act of 2017. The bill, H.R. 2422, was introduced by Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and calls for Congress to authorize additional oral health promotion and disease prevention programs.

"Dr. Watson-Lowry has a deep and personal understanding of the unmet need for oral and dental health in communities around our nation," said Rep. Kelly, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust, in a news release. "I'm so honored to have Dr. Watson-Lowry and the American Dental Association supporting the Action for Dental Health Act. By working together and providing seed funding, we are opening the door to new innovations that will help bring dental and oral health care to all American families."

Dr. Watson-Lowry's testimony on the ADH focused on two of the program's initiatives: emergency room referral programs and the ADA's Community Dental Health Coordinator program.


Action for Dental Health: Dr. Cheryl Watson-Lowry, left, and Rep. Robin Kelly take a moment following the ADA’s testimony on Rep. Kelly’s bill, the Action for Dental Hill Act of 2017. 
"This bill will allow organizations to qualify for oral health grants to support activities that improve oral health education and dental disease prevention and develop and expand outreach programs that facilitate establishing dental homes for children and adults, including the elderly, blind and disabled," Dr. Watson-Lowry testified.

The dental initiative drew bipartisan interest from members of the subcommittee.

"There are very serious gaps in dental care in America," said Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., who praised the work being done by the Florida Dental Association and Missions of Mercy events in her state.

Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., wanted to know if ADH could help patients find access to dentists who accept Medicaid, which historically has been a problem.

Dr. Watson-Lowry used this opportunity to talk about CDHCs, who not only help connect patients with care, but also help provide transportation to their appointments.

"It improves care and cuts costs," she said.

Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., was curious: If federal agencies such as the CDC support dental health with funding and community water fluoridation, why is Action for Dental Health legislation necessary?

"It's necessary because this is grassroots," Dr. Watson-Lowry answered. "It's local solutions for local problems."

Watch the full hearing here.