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Statement by ADA President Raymond F. Gist on W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Dental Access Survey

October 04, 2011

Contact Information:
Telephone: 312.440.2806
Email: (Journalists) or Contact ADA (All Others)

Washington, D.C., Oct. 4, 2011—"Kellogg’s reported findings on people’s need for better access to care are consistent with what the ADA, federal and state governments, and numerous other stakeholders have said for years, and it is good to have that message reinforced. Breaking down the barriers that impede people’s ability to attain good oral health is our highest priority. State and local dental societies and our 156,000 members share this priority, and understand that it will take multiple solutions to achieve it.

"Unfortunately, there is no single or simple solution. Barriers to oral health vary from region to region, state to state, city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood. The needs of Southwestern states, with their sparsely populated rural areas and Native American communities, are different from those of inner cities on the coasts or economically depressed towns in New England and the Midwest. The nation will never drill, fill and extract its way out of what Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, famously called a "silent epidemic" of oral disease. Oral health education and prevention are the two most important measures that can end that epidemic. Regular care by dentists and their teams will prevent disease from recurring. The ADA believes that everyone deserves a dentist.

"The Kellogg Foundation’s narrow focus on a single idea—so called 'dental therapists'—and its claim that a vast majority of Americans favor creating dental therapists lacks credibility. Kellogg’s survey question regarding dental therapists implied that care by therapists would somehow cost less than care by dentists. We know of no data to support this. If such data exists, Kellogg should release it. Kellogg also declined to describe therapists' level of training, whether they would work with a dentist nearby in case something goes wrong, or what types of surgical procedures they would perform. Absent that information, the survey respondents could not provide informed opinions.

"We recognize that calling for large increases in government support for anything during a major economic downturn is simply unrealistic. But it is totally appropriate to call on state and federal governments to at least maintain their existing commitments to providing oral health care for the millions of Americans—including one quarter of the nation’s children—who are most in need. The ADA and its allies will continue to lead the fight to break down the barriers to oral health for all Americans. We welcome well-meaning, well-resourced and respected allies like the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to join us in advocating and implementing the comprehensive solutions that will accomplish this."

About the ADA

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 163,000 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 monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) 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