The Organized Dentistry Coalition, including the ADA, is supporting HR 4555, the Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2021.
The coalition, led by the Academy of General Dentistry, sent a letter ahead of the House Subcommittee on Health's Oct. 20 hearing expressing support for the bill. HR 4555 authorizes the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to develop and test evidence-based oral health literacy strategies to provide oral disease prevention education through a 5-year oral health literacy campaign.
"As dentists, we believe oral health literacy is the foundation of a lifetime of wellness," the groups wrote. "Most oral health ailments can be avoided by increasing oral health literacy among all populations, with an emphasis on children to ensure they develop and maintain healthy habits into adulthood. Additionally, oral health literacy must be a cornerstone of improving the utilization of care by underserved populations."
The dental organizations noted that HRSA has demonstrated a commitment to improving oral health among the most vulnerable populations and said they believe the agency's efforts to achieve this goal will be bolstered by integrating effective oral health literacy strategies.
"This legislation is the appropriate response to the troubling findings from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the status of our nation's oral health. We failed to hit the Healthy People 2020 target of getting 49% of Americans to use the oral health care system," wrote the coalition, which added that only 43.3% of children, adolescents and adults visited the dentist in 2016, which is less than the baseline set in 2007 of 44.5%.
The Organized Dentistry Coalition also said there continues to be "appalling disparities by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and education when it comes to both receiving dental care and suffering from untreated tooth decay."
"Ensuring all Americans understand the importance of taking care of their oral health is a vital component of our nation's overall health," the group wrote.