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House approves legislation recognizing dental emergency responders

Washington—The U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation Sept. 28 intended "to enhance the roles of dentists and allied dental personnel in the nation's disaster response framework." The Association is working with several Senate offices for final passage and will continue to lobby for the legislation through this session of Congress.

The Dental Emergency Responder Act of 2010, H.R. 903, would amend public health service and homeland security laws by adding such language as "may include dental health facilities" and "may include dental health assets" and inserting the terms "dental" and "medical and dental communities."

The Association for several years has lobbied Congress for passage of such legislation. The ADA and 36 national and state dental organizations urged the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a Jan. 14, 2010 letter to "recognize dentists as emergency care responders." After committee passage of the bill July 28, ADA President Ronald L. Tankersley said, "The vote recognizes the important role dentists have played and can continue to play in the event of national disasters.

"Many federal, state and local officials don't realize that medical evaluation and triage are important aspects of dentists' professional education," Dr. Tankersley said. "Following the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, dentists were among the first to triage and treat the wounded. They played a critical role in saving lives." Dentists have also responded to such emergencies as the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing and the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) with eight Democratic and four Republican cosponsors introduced the dental emergency responder legislation Feb. 4, 2009. The House passed the bill, as amended, by voice vote under a suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds vote.