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ADA commends government agencies for updating report on oral health

July 31, 2018

By David Burger

Washington — A forthcoming Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health will document progress in oral health since 2000 and articulate a vision for the future, a move the ADA is commending.

The U.S. Public Health Service's Oral Health Coordinating Committee is commissioning the report, nearly two decades after a similar one was released.

"The role that dentists play in patients' oral as well as overall health is greater than what it was almost 20 years ago when the first surgeon general's report was released," said ADA President Joseph. P. Crowley. "Dentists are leading the way in scientific advancements and clinical treatments that improve patients' oral health and by extension their overall health. I am excited to see the progress that has been made and the challenges that remain so the ADA can lead interdisciplinary efforts to address them."

"In the intervening two decades, oral health has improved for many Americans, but not for all," said Dr. Lawrence A. Tabak, Ph.D., deputy director of the National Institutes of Health, in a July 27 news release. "Many Americans are retaining more of their natural teeth, complete tooth loss among older adults is at the lowest level ever measured and many younger children have less untreated tooth decay. Over the past two decades, we have learned more about how changes across the lifespan can substantially influence oral health and how health promotion activities and interventions targeted for specific life stages can benefit oral health and quality of life."

Dr. Tabak continued: "However, many Americans continue to experience unnecessary pain and complications from poor oral health that adversely affect their well-being, adding substantial economic and social costs. Poor oral health also impacts our nation's ability to recruit young adults for military service and maintain military readiness."

The new report, Dr. Tabak said, has five objectives:

  • Underscore the critical nature of poor oral health as a public health issue.
  • Provide a comprehensive review of the importance of oral health throughout life.
  • Describe important contemporary issues affecting oral health and the promise of science to transform the oral health of the nation.
  • Outline a vision for future directions.
  • Educate, encourage and call upon all Americans to take action.

"The first Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health addressed determinants for oral health and disease," Dr. Tabak said in the news release. "Twenty years later, the knowledge gained from science and technology has continued to provide a better understanding of the etiology and natural history of oral and craniofacial diseases and conditions and we have gained a better understanding of these determinants."

"Although we benefit from numerous advances that influence oral health, we still face challenges as we try to reach our goal of oral health for all," Dr. Tabak added.

"We hope to have the report finalized for release in 2020," said Dr. Bruce Dye, dental epidemiology officer, office of science policy and analysis with the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. "We are still in the early stages of making preparations to initiate work on the report and more information will be forthcoming including outreach efforts to stakeholders."

The report was commissioned on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.