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Organized Dentistry comments on HHS strategic plan

October 27, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The Organized Dentistry Coalition has recommendations for how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can best serve the oral health and well-being of Americans.

In comments filed Oct. 26, eight members of the coalition highlighted several dental health-related issues and public health initiatives it believes should be prioritized in the agency’s 2018-22 strategic plan that aims to “reform, strengthen and modernize the nation’s health care system.”

As the ADA did in its comments to HHS regarding promoting “the use of high-quality, lower-cost health care providers, such as community health workers, dental therapists and community organizations,” the Organized Dentistry Coalition recommended that HHS include the Community Dental Health Coordinators in that list of providers as opposed to the “one-size-fits-all” approach of dental therapists.

The coalition told HHS that the ADA is opposed to dental therapists for the following reasons:

  • Dental therapists have not proved sustainable without significant ongoing supplemental government or outside organizational spending.
  • There are no studies comparing any improvements in oral health among targeted populations to the potential outcomes had the same resources been directed to providing these patients with care from dentists.
  • There are no cost savings to private or public sector payers or to patients, noting Medicaid reimbursement rates are the same for a given procedure regardless of who provides the service.
  • The additional training and potential licensing of dental therapists adds additional costs to the health care system.
  • Adding dental therapists to a state’s provider mix does not necessarily result in more services for underserved and rural populations, as many therapists locate in urban areas.

The Organized Dentistry Coalition also stressed that HHS prioritize the following:

  • Providing more incentives such as additional National Health Service Corps loan repayments programs, tax credits for serving in underserved areas and improving the Medicaid program to enhance access.
  • Reducing the number of emergency room visits in its goals, reminding the agency that ER visits for nontraumatic dental problems cost more than providing regular care by oral health professionals and do not treat the underlying problem. To back this up, they shared that the U.S. spent nearly $3 billion on ER dental visits from 2008 through 2010, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association.
  • Ensure access to affordable dental coverage for underserved children and adults as an “extremely important component in reducing disparities in access to health care.”
  • Assist states with reducing administrative barriers to providing care to Medicaid beneficiaries.
  • Increase federal funding for the National Health Service Corps, the oral health division in the Indian Health Service, the oral health division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Title VII General and Pediatric Residencies and the Dental Health Improvement Act within the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The coalition also expressed support for the ADA’s Action for Dental Health, a nationwide, community-based movement aimed at ending the dental health crisis facing America today.

The causes of dental disease are varied and complex, but we know that for each of us – and for the nation as a whole – it’s never too late to get on top of our dental health,” Organized Dentistry Coalition wrote. “(Action for Dental Health) aims to prevent dental disease before it starts and reduce the proportion of adults and children with untreated dental disease. Our goal is to help all Americans attain their best oral health.”

Follow all of the ADA’s advocacy efforts at ADA.org/Advocacy.