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Advocacy News

ADA President Asks Congress for More Research on the Relationship between Diet and Oral Health

April 29, 2015 ADA President Dr. Maxine Feinberg testified today before the House Appropriations Committee’s Labor-HHS subcommittee asking Congress to adequately fund dental research, emphasizing the need to better establish a link between dental disease and sugar consumption.

Specifically, the ADA is requesting $425 million for the National and Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). The ADA is also asking NIDCR to conduct more research on the effects of added sugars and other sweeteners on oral health, Dr. Feinberg said.

“Eating patterns and food choices play an important role in maintaining good oral health,” Dr. Feinberg said. “From a dental perspective, a steady diet of sugary foods and drinks, including natural fruit juices and sports drinks, can damage teeth. A lack of certain nutrients can also make it more difficult for tissues in the mouth to resist infection.”

Dr. Feinberg noted that, compared to research on the sugar-obesity connection, research on the sugar-caries (cavities) connection is limited.

Dr. Feinberg’s congressional testimony coincidentally occurred on the last day of the 2015 Washington Leadership Conference, where more than 500 ADA members, their staffs and family members heard from political analysts, members of Congress and politically involved dentists on issues that affect oral health. They also took time to visit their lawmakers on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of their patients and profession.

Among the speakers at this year’s WLC were the three dentist members of Congress: Reps. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Brian Babin (R-Texas).

While visiting House and Senate offices this week, attendees urged lawmakers to support the Action for Dental Health Act (H.R. 539), introduced by Reps. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) and Simpson. The bill would allow organizations to qualify for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) oral health grants to support activities that improve oral health education and dental disease prevention, initiatives that have the greatest impact on dental access disparities. The grants would also be used to develop and expand outreach programs establishing dental homes for children and adults, including the elderly, blind and disabled.