The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) has announced its full support of HR 4678, the Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2019, legislation introduced by Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA).
Developed in partnership with the AGD, the bill amends the Public Health Service Act to direct the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to increase oral health literacy and awareness in specific at-risk populations including children, pregnant women, the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and ethnic and racial minority groups.
“Last year, we appropriated funds to create an oral health literacy program for the participants of targeted programs offered by the US Health Resources and Services Administration,” said Bilirakis.
“This year, I’m pleased to partner with Congressman Tony Cárdenas to expand that initiative by sponsoring the bipartisan Oral Health and Literacy Awareness Act. We can save money in the long run and help program participants avoid pain and suffering through proper education,” said Bilirakis.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, less than 50% of Americans visit the dentist as recommended. As a baseline for this initiative, data shows that 44.5% of Americans visited the dentist in 2007 and 43.3% visited in 2016, the AGD says. The Healthy People 2020 initiative goal is 49%.
“This is a slippery slope we can fix. If left untreated, oral disease can result in pain, disfigurement, loss of productivity at school or work, nutrition problems, expensive emergency room use, and even death,” said Bilirakis.
“Most of these conditions are preventable with proper oral hygiene. In this case, it really is true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Bilirakis.
“On behalf of the 40,000 general dentists who are members of the Academy of General Dentistry, I want to stress the importance of funding oral health programs, and I urge Congress to approve this legislation,” said AGD president Neil J. Gajjar, DDS.
“Programs that promote good oral health are closely tied with good overall health, and this is critical to members of our communities,” said Gajjar.
The public education campaign would be delivered across all relevant HRSA programs, including the Health Centers Program, Oral Health Workforce, Maternal and Child Health, Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, and Rural Health.
If enacted, HR 4678 would authorize up to $750,000 per year through the end of 2024 for HRSA to carry out its oral health literacy and awareness campaign.