ADA to HRSA Support Title VII grants for dental hygienists, assistants

In a Sept. 6 letter to the Health Resources and Services Administration, the ADA emphasized its support for Title VII grants for the education and training of dental professionals, and urged the agency to prioritize training programs for hygienists and assistants.

ADA President Cesar R. Sabates, D.D.S., and Executive Director Raymond A. Cohlmia, D.D.S., jointly composed the missive addressed to HRSA's chief dental officer Adam Barefoot, DMD, MPH. The letter follows an Aug. 5 meeting between the ADA and HRSA where the ADA called for a renewed focus on dental workforce issues.

"Training more dental hygienists will improve access to care by allowing dentists to see more patients," Drs. Sabates and Cohlmia wrote. "Additionally, HRSA can further improve access to care by supporting the training of dental assistants with Title VII grants. Although dental assistants are not currently eligible for Title VII grants, they can be made eligible if HRSA designates dental assistants as approved primary care dental trainees."

The letter cited ADA Health Policy Institute Economic Outlook and Emerging Issues in Dentistry survey data on the workforce difficulties that ADA members report experiencing, including the recruiting and hiring of dental hygienists and assistants.

The letter also discussed a recent Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry that recommended that Congress fund dental therapy programs. The ADA emphasized that "because there are many successful programs already set up to train dental hygienists and dental assistants, addressing workforce shortages through funding these programs is more cost effective than setting up new training programs for new types of mid-level providers."

Additionally, the letter called for reform of the health professional shortage areas criteria, as well as for greater support for Action For Dental Health.

Health professional shortage areas should be revised and refined for more effective distribution of oral health resources, including dentists and allied oral health professionals, and improved access to care where most needed, the ADA said.

ADH initiatives, which are directed towards advancing health equity, also advance  need additional HRSA support, the ADA said.

In closing, the Association thanked HRSA for its recent investment of nearly $150 million in primary care programs, particularly with regard to the investment of funds in dental hygienists and dental hygiene training programs. "We look forward to working with you on these issues, and others, in the future," the ADA leaders said.

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