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Oral health legislation introduced in Congress

ADA lauds 'intent to help extend good oral health to all Americans'

Washington—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) announced what they said is "the most sweeping legislation ever to address the national crisis in dental care" at a Capitol Hill news conference June 7.

Standing with several representatives of the 37 organizations listed as supporters of The Comprehensive Dental Reform Act of 2012, Sen. Sanders said, "We are breaking new ground. The struggle is not going to be easy."

Asked about his plans for moving the legislation, S. 3272 in the Senate, and whether he would work with the American Dental Association, he replied, "We will work with anybody and everybody interested in making improvements. I'm pleased to see the statement the ADA recently made. I think they understand. It's not going to be passed tomorrow but we're going to get support and this legislation will be passed."

The ADA is not listed as a supporting organization. The Association asked for clarification of some provisions, offered recommendations on others and said it could not support the bill's mid-level provider proposals and certain other provisions. ADA officials cited "many provisions in your bill that we enthusiastically support" and offered to work with the senator in crafting the legislation.

"We hope that our few areas of disagreement do not obscure our welcoming Sen. Sanders to this fight.  His bill aims high, and that has long been needed," said Dr. William R. Calnon, ADA president. "We fully support his intent to help extend good oral health to all Americans and we applaud his leveraging his influence as a United States senator in pursuit of that goal."

Rep. Cummings said he would offer a House version of the bill. "This bill represents a promise to the American people that dental health will no longer be a privilege," he told a standing-room-only audience in a Senate-side room in the U.S. Capitol. "By making investments in our oral health workforce, additional dental professionals will be available to address the demand for oral health care in areas of need. Emergency funding will help expand the resources available to the National Health Service Corps to train a new generation of dental providers."

Dr. Paul Glassman, professor of dental practice and director of the Pacific Center for Special Care at the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, also spoke at the news conference http://youtu.be/3oaINr51MrM.

Dr. Glassman cited recommendations from an Institute of Medicine Committee on which he served. The 2011 IOM report, Improving Access to Oral Health Care for Vulnerable and Underserved Populations, called for expansion of the oral health workforce, integration of oral health into general health activities and use of 21st century telehealth technologies to foster collaboration and communication between distributed sectors of the health care system. "It is time to develop new and innovative solutions to these problems," Dr. Glassman said.

Representatives of the Children's Dental Health Project, the Community Catalyst dental access project and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare and a self-described "parent" also spoke at the news conference.