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ADA weighs in on Healthy People 2030 oral health objectives

January 18, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The ADA is applauding the U.S. Health and Human Service's Advisory Committee on National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2030 for highlighting oral health in Healthy People 2030.

In a Jan. 17 letter to the advisory committee, the Association said it was pleased to comment on the draft framework for Healthy People 2030, an initiative that each decade develops a new set of science-based objectives to "prioritize the investment of public, private and nonprofit health resources."

For the 2030 plan, ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole and Executive Director Kathleen T. O'Loughlin praised committee experts for singling out oral health and applauded them for recognizing the role that oral health plays in overall health, access to services, and educational and community-based programs.

"We are pleased that the committee chose to retain oral health as a separate and distinct topic area for Healthy People 2030," wrote Drs. Cole and O'Loughlin. "Oral health has been a focus of Healthy People since its inception in 1990 and its inclusion has inspired dynamic and highly effective collaborations involving the private sector, the public health community, government, philanthropy and our medical colleagues."

Drs. Cole and O'Loughlin also noted that the last iteration of Healthy People was the "first time that oral health was acknowledged as a leading health indicator" which led to a "dramatic shift" in the way people viewed oral health as being part of overall health and well-being.

"By continuing this focus in Healthy People 2030, the committee will continue inspiring remedies to what former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher referred to as the 'silent epidemic' of untreated oral disease in America," they wrote.

The ADA also suggested several additions, revisions and general observations about the currently proposed objectives, noting, "We are particularly interested in reducing the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer and increasing the proportion of children who have access to a dental home.

The additions include calling for six new objectives for 2030:

  • Reducing the oral cancer death rate.
  • Reducing the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Increasing the number of community-based organizations providing population-based primary preventive dental services.
  • Increasing the proportion of children who have access to a dental home.
  • Increasing the proportion of older adults in long-term care facilities who have access to regular oral health assessments and treatment.
  • Reducing the number of emergency department visits for dental pain.

The ADA also urged the committee to retain the following four objectives from Healthy People 2020:

  • Increasing the proportion of persons with diagnosed diabetes to undergo at least one annual dental examination.
  • Increasing the proportion of dentists with geriatric certification.
  • Increasing tobacco screening in dental care settings.
  • Increasing tobacco cessation counseling in dental care settings.

The Association said that while it supports the committee's proposed core objective calling for a reduction in the proportion of adults aged 45 and older who have lost all of their natural teeth, this objective would be better served by singling out three distinct age groups: adults aged 45-64 years, adults aged 65-74 years (currently in a Healthy 2020 objective) and adults aged 75 years and older.

"Tiering the age groups will enable policy makers, public health officials, researchers and others to more easily target interventions based on whether the adults grew up in environments before or after certain preventive measures were in place," the comments concluded.