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ADA, coalition express support for oral health literacy bill

Evidence-based education campaign would promote oral health literacy among at-risk populations

The members of the Organized Dentistry Coalition, including the ADA, expressed their support for a bipartisan bill introduced in October that would establish an evidence-based education campaign to promote oral health literacy among at-risk populations.

If enacted into law, the Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2022 would provide $750,000 to the Health Resources and Services Administration each year for fiscal years 2023 through 2027 to establish a campaign that aims to help prevent the development of serious disease, mitigate high-cost emergency care and encourage greater use of the oral health care system.

"As dentists, we believe OHL is the foundation to a lifetime of wellness and disease prevention," according to a Oct. 11 letter by the coalition, led by the Academy of General Dentistry. "The dental community is proud to endorse the Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2022. Through the promotion of OHL, all Americans can attain greater health knowledge and improve health outcomes."

The coalition sent the letter of appreciation to U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the bill's original sponsors.

The letter noted that dentists continue to observe significant disparities in dental care and the progression of preventable tooth decay and disease by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

"On average, over 34 million school hours and more than $45 billion in productivity is lost annually due to untreated dental disease and dental emergencies requiring unplanned care," the coalition wrote. "The oral health care system remains underutilized, with only 46.2% of Americans visiting a dentist in 2018."

Oral heath literacy is defined in the letter as the individual capacity to understand and use health information to transform oral health behaviors. The coalition said that most oral health ailments, including tooth decay, periodontal disease and certain oral cancers, can be prevented by promoting oral health literacy among all populations, with an emphasis on children, to ensure they develop and maintain healthy habits into adulthood.

The coalition added that in 2021, a companion bipartisan bill to this legislation was passed by the House of Representatives by a 369-58 vote.

"We urge the Senate to act swiftly to pass your legislation during the 117th Congress, so HRSA may receive the dedicated funding necessary to establish an effective education campaign that addresses these oral health issues," the coalition wrote.

For more information on ADA's advocacy, visit  ADA.org/advocacy.


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