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Dr. Gist, ADA president, issues statement on IOM report

The ADA July 13 released this statement by ADA President Raymond Gist on the IOM report, “Improving Access to Oral Health Care for the Vulnerable and Underserved Populations”:

“We welcome the IOM’s ambitious 243-page report on ways to improve the nation’s oral health care delivery system, and we look forward to reviewing it in greater detail. Based on the report’s summary, we agree wholeheartedly with many of its recommendations. In fact, many of them reflect policies and programs that the ADA has had in place for years. 

“We have long said that Medicaid funding and administration must be improved and that adults must be covered. Federal and state governments must take steps to make it possible for the private practice community to increase dramatically its role in the oral health safety net. The federal government should increase its support for dental education, especially residency programs, and dental students, residents and faculty must be fully utilized in providing safety net care. And increased non-clinical support services, such as those provided by the ADA’s Community Dental Health Coordinator, are critical to a comprehensive system of care.  

“To best accomplish these goals, governments, foundations and other stakeholders must include the private practice community at all stages of developing their policies and policy recommendations. Only about 2 percent of the nation’s dentists work in full-time safety net capacities. The vast majority work in private practice and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Private practice dentists will continue to provide the majority of hands-on care to vulnerable populations. 

“The IOM report mentions—without making recommendations—various dental workforce innovations that are either under way or under discussion. The ADA continues to support exploring new ways to maximize the efficiency of the team system of delivering dental care. Our Community Dental Health Coordinator project is one example of this. However, we must restate our opposition to allowing so-called midlevel providers, to diagnose disease or perform such surgical/irreversible procedures as extractions. Everyone deserves a dentist. 

“Virtually every shortcoming in the safety net has at its root a failure to understand or value oral health. When people, whether lawmakers, the media or the general public, understand oral health and the consequences of oral disease, their attitudes and priorities change. Awareness is on the rise, but we have far to go before Americans know enough to make the personal and policy decisions that ultimately will create a real safety net, one that prevents disease and restores oral health in people who seek healthier and more productive lives. We welcome the Institute of Medicine’s lending its considerable influence to our long-standing efforts to achieve that goal.”