Prioritize Oral Health Care in America


CHICAGO, May 23, 2024 – The American Dental Association (ADA) applauds members of Congress for prioritizing oral health as a critical component of Americans' overall health and wellbeing. Beyond teeth and gums, the mouth serves as a window to the rest of the body and can show signs of infection, nutritional deficiencies and systemic diseases. Dentistry is an essential health care service because of the role it plays in evaluating, diagnosing, preventing or treating oral disease, which is integral to systemic health. Staying well depends on having access to health care, which includes oral health care. In addition, there is compelling research linking improved oral health with reduced overall health care spending.

The importance of oral health and its connection to physical health deserves priority focus in federal and state health policy to address the current barriers to accessing care. The ADA is dedicated to advocating for legislation that will improve oral health. We thank the leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee for shining a light on this critical issue. We urge Congress to recognize the need for bipartisan action.

Over the past two decades, we have seen steady improvements among children, particularly the most vulnerable, when dental care was included as an essential benefit under Medicaid and CHIP and, later, under the Affordable Care Act. Yet, because of state-by-state differences in oral health coverage for underserved adults, there has been much less progress among working-age adults. Only half of states provide comprehensive dental coverage to adults in their Medicaid programs. We continue to believe that maintaining an adequate provider base, as well as providing adequate funding for dental services is critical for vulnerable Medicaid insured adults. As one step in addressing access to dental care, the ADA asks Congress to pass S.570/H.R.1342, the Medicaid Dental Benefit Act of 2023, to provide comprehensive dental coverage to all adults in the program.

In addition, the ADA supports legislation that will strengthen the dental workforce and address distribution of providers. We have worked to advance H.R. 3843, the Action for Dental Health Act, out of the House of Representatives, to reauthorize a grant program for providers to practice in underserved areas, such as rural communities. We also support increased funding for training and recruitment programs like the Health Careers Opportunity Program, HRSA’s Title VII Primary Care Training Program, National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Centers, which are crucial to the supply, distribution and diversity of the dental workforce.

There are many approaches needed to address access to oral health care in America. Multiple measures will be needed to make improvements. The ADA welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with policymakers to implement solutions to address the accessibility and affordability of oral health in America.

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About the American Dental Association
The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 159,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), published monthly, is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website