Bill (H.R. 4555) Authorizes Funding for Wide-Spread Public Education Campaign that Aims to Reduce Growing Oral Health Concerns
CHICAGO (July 2021) – The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD)-led effort to improved oral health literacy and awareness is closer to reality with the introduction of the “Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2021,” legislation by Representatives Tony Cardenas (D-CA) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL). H.R. 4555 amends the Public Health Service Act to direct the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to increase oral heath literacy and awareness in specific at-risk populations including: children, pregnant women, elderly, individuals with disabilities, and ethnic and racial minority groups.
“Oral disease significantly impacts children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations,” said Bruce L. Cassis, DDS, MAGD, AGD President. “For this reason, we continue to fight to help people obtain the services they need to protect their oral and overall health. We are grateful for the ongoing support of Representatives Cárdenas and Bilirakis who come together to support our communities and the most vulnerable individuals.”
“Millions of Americans often neglect their oral health without understanding the long-term effects on their overall physical health,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “This is not just a public health issue, it’s an economic one as well. Oral health illnesses result in tens of millions of lost workdays each year. Our bill focuses on educating vulnerable communities that often have higher than average oral health disease. By educating them on the importance of dental and oral hygiene, we hope to increase oral disease prevention and overall oral health care.”
The Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act directs HRSA to develop and test evidence-based oral health literacy strategies capable of reaching across vulnerable populations to provide oral disease prevention education through a 5-year initiative. Most oral health ailments can be avoided by increasing oral health literacy, with a particular emphasis on children to ensure they develop and maintain healthy habits into adulthood. This authorization would build on funding HRSA has received in the past three fiscal years to begin undertaking this effort. HRSA’s efforts will advise Congress on the outcomes and effectiveness of targeted oral health literacy strategies and will help inform future efforts to improve oral health literacy for all Americans.
“Oral health is a vital component of overall wellness that is too often overlooked. As with many aspects of healthcare, prevention is key to long-term health. Lack of good oral hygiene has been proven to exacerbate chronic health conditions and contributes to costly, yet preventable, emergency care,” said Congressman Bilirakis. “I am proud to be a part of this initiative to raise awareness about the proactive steps that can be taken to improve oral healthcare as I believe it will improve patient outcomes.”
Illnesses related to oral health results in 6.1 million days of bed disability, 12.7 million days of restricted activity, and 20.5 million lost workdays each year. The Healthy People 2020 failed to hit its targets of getting 49% of Americans to annually use the oral health care system. This legislation focuses on these areas of concern.
The legislative initiative is supported by: Academy of General Dentistry, American Academy of Dental Group Practice, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, American Academy of Periodontology, American Association of Endodontists, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Orthodontists, American Association of Women Dentists, American College of Prosthodontists, American Dental Association, American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists, American Student Dental Association.
About the Academy of General DentistryThe Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) is a professional association of over 40,000 general dentists dedicated to providing quality dental care and oral health education to the public. AGD members stay up to date in their profession through a commitment to continuing education. Founded in 1952, the AGD is the only association that exclusively serves the needs and represents the interests of general dentists. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management, and overall coordination of services related to patients’ oral health needs.