ADA Testifies on Priorities for Oral Disease Prevention Funding

Washington, D.C., May 3, 2011—"We cannot 'drill and fill' our way out of dental disease," said Dr. Matthew Neary, chairman of the American Dental Association's (ADA) Council on Government Affairs, speaking before members of the House of Representatives today. "But we can prevent it—which is a more cost-efficient and a better way of reducing oral disease."

Dr. Neary told lawmakers that the Indian Health Service's Early Childhood Caries Initiative, a program designed to determine the level of disease as well as the best prevention methods, must receive adequate funding if it is to continue its valuable work. Dr. Neary asked that Congress accept the Administration's request to increase the program's funding by $726,000.

Testifying before the House Interior Subcommittee on Appropriations, Dr. Neary expressed the ADA's position on several other IHS issues, including:

Adequately funding the IHS Electronic Dental Record (EDR). The EDR will provide automated patient dental records and capture dental data from patient encounters and oral examinations.

The importance of following up on earlier congressional allocations to upgrade modular dental facilities throughout Indian country. Despite the fact that there are at least 27 dental units on a waiting list, no money has been spent to replace them for the past three years. Dr. Neary asked subcommittee members to allot $1 million toward new facilities.

Expandingthe existing eight IHS dental clinical and preventive support centers. Staffs working at the centers in this program are trained to assist in establishing and maintaining community-based programs to prevent dental disease. The ADA recommended that the lawmakers increase the current funding by $1 million, to $3 million, and designate the funding to be used by the Director of the IHS Headquarters Division of Oral Health.

Dr. Neary summed up his testimony with a plea for Congress to adequately fund IHS dental programs. He noted that IHS was not able to reach its fiscal year 2010 goal of servicing 25 percent of the population who utilize the IHS health care system. Only through determined effort will lawmakers, IHS and tribal officials, and dentists be able to significantly reduce dental disease in Indian Country.