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ADA Testimony before House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Outlines Association’s Oral Health Requests for Indian Health Service Programs

Contact Information:

Rob Raible:  Telephone: 202-789-5166  Email: raibler@ada.org
Richard Green: Telephone: 202-789-5170  Email: greenr@ada.org

Increases in Indian Health Service (IHS) funding and dentist recruitment efforts  have led to demonstrable improvements in the oral health of Native children, said Dr. Henry Fields, chairman of the American Dental Association Council on Government Affairs, speaking before members of the House of Representatives today. “In the 1990s the budget for the IHS Division of Oral Health was $65 million; today it is more than $159 million,” he said. He noted that funding has resulted in improvements in oral health care but added, “We also know more needs to be done.”

Testifying before the House Interior Subcommittee on Appropriations, Dr. Fields told lawmakers that a greater focus on recruiting more dentists has led to higher rates of utilization for Native patients, both adults and children. “Of course, more dentists mean more dental care,” he said, pointing out that the number of dentist vacancies in the IHS workforce has decreased significantly since 2009—from 140 to 40—largely thanks to Congress’s attention to funding needs.

Dr. Fields laid out the ADA's position on several IHS issues, including:
 
• The need for a report by the IHS Division of Oral Health showing how giving the agency the same direct hiring authority as other health disciplines could enhance recruitment.
• Adding $300,000 to the IHS budget to pay for the division’s Early Childhood Caries Initiative, a new program designed to promote prevention of and early intervention in tooth decay in young children.

Dr. Fields said that the ADA and several state dental societies whose jurisdictions include Indian Country have joined forces to advance oral health through the Native American Oral Health Care Project. The project emphasizes prevention programs, better access to dentures for elders and the creation of an educational pipeline to help more Native Americans enter careers in dentistry.

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.