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Statement by ADA President Raymond F. Gist, D.D.S., on the Institute of Medicine’s Report "Improving Access to Oral Health Care for Vulnerable and Underserved Populations"

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CHICAGO, July 13, 2011 - "We welcome the IOM’s ambitious 243-page report on ways to improve the nation’s oral health care delivery system, and we look forward to reviewing it in greater detail.  Based on the report’s summary, we agree wholeheartedly with many of its recommendations.  In fact, many of them reflect policies and programs that the ADA has had in place for years. 

"We have long said that Medicaid funding and administration must be improved, and that adults must be covered.  Federal and state governments must take steps to make it possible for the private practice community to dramatically increase its role in the oral health safety net.  The federal government should increase its support for dental education, especially residency programs, and the utilization of dental students, residents and faculty in providing safety net care.  Additionally, increased non-clinical support services, such as those provided by the ADA’s Community Dental Health Coordinator, are critical to a comprehensive system of care. 
 
"To best accomplish these goals, governments, foundations and other stakeholders must include the private practice community in all stages of development for their policies and policy recommendations.  Only about 2 percent of the nation’s dentists work in fulltime safety net capacities.  The vast majority work in private practice, and this is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.  Private practice dentists will continue to provide the majority of hands-on care to vulnerable populations. 

"The IOM report mentions—without making recommendations—various dental workforce innovations that are either under way or under discussion.  The ADA continues to support exploring new ways to maximize the efficiency of the team system of delivering dental care.  Our Community Dental Health Coordinator project is one example of this initiative. We must, however, restate our opposition to allowing so-called “midlevel providers,” to diagnose disease or perform such surgical/irreversible procedures as extractions.  Everyone deserves a dentist. 

"Virtually every shortcoming in the safety net includes, at its root, a failure to understand or value oral health.  When people, whether lawmakers, the media or the general public, understand oral health and the consequences of oral disease, their attitudes and priorities change.  Awareness is on the rise, but we have many barriers to address before Americans fully realize the value of oral health and are motivated to make the personal and policy decisions that will ultimately create a true safety net. A net that will prevent disease and restore oral health in people who seek healthier and more productive lives.  We welcome the Institute of Medicine’s lending its considerable influence to our longstanding efforts to achieve that goal.”

About the American Dental Association

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 157,000 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 www.ada.org. For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA’s consumer website www.MouthHealthy.org.