Initiative seeks to close the oral health equity gap
by Jennifer Garvin
October 13, 2022
Houston - The ADA has launched a new Health Equity Action Team to help reduce disparities in oral health.
The new endeavor, led by the Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention, was announced Oct. 13, during SmileCon.
The launch event featured Shailee Gupta, D.D.S., chair, ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention; Natalia Chalmers, D.D.S., Ph.D., chief dental officer, Centers for Medicaid & Medicare, Francis Kim, D.D.S., executive director, American Association for Public Health Dentistry; and James Mancini, D.M.D., CAAP vice chair.
"CMS is a trusted partner to achieve health equity and advance access and improve clinical outcomes," Dr. Chalmers said. "And not in random order. We're really focused on achieving health equity and I was so excited to see ADA make such a commitment by launching this team."
"Oral health and disparities are evident across the lifespan," she added. "Even if you look at young children, adults or seniors, the disparities are very clear. So whenever I talk about oral health I always come from that space and we have to be intentional about closing these gaps."
During the event, the Health Equity Action Team passed out brochures outlining ways dentists can get involved, including:
Reinforcing the role of oral health in overall health by working with community organizations, talking to patients about the role of HPV in oral cancer and discussing tobacco cessation.
Educating patients about disease prevention by promoting age 1 dental visits, promoting the use of sealants on permanent molars and talking to patients about the benefits of drinking water with fluoride.
Creating a socially connected practice mindset by identifying stakeholders to address local social determinants of health that construct barriers to care; working with local societies; and collaborating with new moms' groups, local media and school health professionals to provide home care supplies to promote disease prevention.
Making health equity a part of dental practices by taking an unconscious bias assessment with staff, making sure practice materials are health literate, and taking part in programs to diversify the workforce.
"Health equity is not the last question, it's the first question," Dr. Chalmers said.