House passes Action for Dental Health Act of 2023

Legislation would extend program through 2028


The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Action for Dental Health Act of 2023, which reauthorizes the workforce and access-promoting program through 2028. 

The bill, HR 3843, passed March 7 with a vote of 391-32.  

The Action for Dental Health program has provided funding for the Health Resources and Services Administration oral health workforce grant program since 2018 in an effort to improve the dental workforce and access to oral health care. 

Four representatives spoke in favor of the legislation when it was brought to the floor this week. Rep. Michael Simpson, D.M.D., R-Idaho, said that the bill has improved dental care, strengthened the dental safety net and brought disease prevention and education to underserved communities. 

“This reauthorization is an essential step in continuing to address barriers to oral health care services that still exist, like tackling the oral health workforce issues and reducing the number of adults and children living with untreated dental disease,” Dr. Simpson said. “As a former dentist in Blackfoot, Idaho, I know that the more we can provide patients with an early diagnosis, the better off our patients and our oral health care system will be.” 

Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., added that oral health affects the ability to eat, speak and show emotions, as well as plays a “crucial role” in shaping an individual’s self-esteem. She noted that the bill passed both the Energy and Commerce subcommittee and full committee with unanimous bipartisan support. 

“Thank you for considering the Action for Dental Health Act, that I’m proud to co-lead with Rep. Mike Simpson. The Action for Dental Health Act was the first bill that I passed when I arrived to Congress, and I’m honored to see the continued support for this important piece of legislation. Oral health care is a critical part of our overall health, and preventative dental care can reduce costs for families and help so many people live better lives,” Rep. Kelly said. 

In advance of the vote, the ADA sent a grassroots Action Alert encouraging members to reach out to their representatives to urge them to vote yes on the legislation. The Association also sent a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., expressing gratitude for bringing the legislation to the floor. The letter pointed to a recent ADA survey that found that 87% of dentists said recruiting for dental hygienist and assistant positions is “extremely challenging.”

It added that Action for Dental Health programs aim to mitigate these staffing difficulties, which are especially acute in underserved areas. The bill would provide federal grants for underserved populations, the ADA letter stated, particularly directed toward dental disease prevention through improved dental education, reduction of geographic and language barriers and improved access to care. 

“Programs supported by ADH advance the important goal of decreasing dental health disparities in communities where better access to care is most needed,” said the letter, which was signed by ADA President Linda J. Edgar, D.D.S., and Executive Director Raymond A. Cohlmia, D.D.S. “We look forward to the advancement of H.R. 3843 to reauthorize the Action for Dental Health Act oral health workforce grants for innovative programs from fiscal year 2024 through fiscal year 2028.”

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