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Action for Dental Health

Action for Dental Health Initiatives

Action for Dental Health is a community-based, grassroots movement to provide care now to people who suffer from untreated dental disease, to strengthen and expand the public/private safety net and to bring disease prevention and education into communities through the following eight initiatives.

Emergency Room Referral
Many people without dental coverage don’t seek treatment until their dental pain grows so severe that it sends them to a hospital emergency room.  But most hospitals can’t provide comprehensive care, so the problem often isn’t solved.  Dentists around the country are working with hospitals to get these patients out of the ER and into the dental chair, the right place for the right treatment. 

Community Dental Health Coordinators 
Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHCs) address barriers to oral health by providing patient navigation for people who typically do not receive care for a variety of reasons—among them poverty, geography, language, culture, and a lack of understanding of oral hygiene and the importance of regular dental visits. CDHCs typically work in inner cities, remote rural areas and Native American lands.

Studies prove water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing dental decay by at least 25 percent in children and adults, even in an era during which there is widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.

Medicaid Reform
Most state Medicaid dental programs fall short of providing the amount and extent of care—both preventive and restorative—needed by their low-income beneficiaries. This is especially true for low-income adults, many of whom have virtually no access to dental care through Medicaid. The American Dental Association advocates for increased dental health protections under Medicaid, especially in states that have yet to agree to Medicaid expansion, and helps more dentists work with community health centers and clinics.  

Federally Qualified Health Centers
When private-practice dentists contract with Federally Qualified Health Centers, they are able to help these safety net facilities expand their capacity to provide care to underserved populations – primarily children on Medicaid – without increasing the clinics’ “bricks and mortar” expenses and staffing overhead. Patients benefit because quality care can be quickly and efficiently delivered, alleviating much of the backlog experienced by many health center dental programs. 

Nursing Home Programs 
America’s vulnerable elderly face the greatest barriers to accessing dental care of any population group. But delivering dental care to the nearly 1.3 million seniors in nursing homes has been problematic. Now, dentists across the country are adopting nursing homes in their communities, with the cost of care offset by a little-known provision in Medicaid. It’s an immediate and affordable solution for nursing home residents.

Collaborations with other Health Professionals and Organizations
Better collaboration among dental and medical professionals can help more families understand their dental health is a crucial part of their overall health. The dental health of a pregnant woman or a mother can affect the health of the baby. Diabetes and gum disease are often interrelated.

With minimal training, physicians, nurses, and others can dramatically increase the number of patients and caregivers who receive basic dental health education. These professionals also can be trained to recognize conditions needing diagnosis and possible treatment by a dentist.

Missions of Mercy/Give Kids A Smile 
Missions of Mercy events are temporary dental field hospitals that provide free dental care to the underserved. Since 2003, Missions of Mercy events have served more than 143,000 people in 28 states across the country, providing nearly $50 million in free services. 

Give Kids A Smile programs allow dentists across the country to join with others in their communities to provide care to underserved children. An overarching goal is to provide each child with a dental home. At the events, dentists and other team members volunteer their time and services to provide screenings, treatments and education to children.

ADA Engage Legislative Action Center Logo

Take action on critical legislation affecting oral health and dental care.