Organizations Call for Federal Chief Dental Officer Appointment



Representatives from a quartet of dental organizations convened on Capitol Hill last week to encourage the nation’s legislators to restore the federal position of chief dental officer with executive-level authority and resources to oversee the dental programs and oral health initiatives of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

“HRSA needs the strong voice of a dentist to inform and lead our country’s oral health agenda,” said W. Mark Donald, DDS, president of the AGD, who joined members of the American Association for Dental Research, the American Association of Public Health Dentistry, and the Special Care Dentistry Association in Washington, DC.

In 2008, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education and Related Agencies directed HRSA to establish a chief dental officer. HRSA then selected Dr. Jay Anderson, who retired in 2010. Since then, the position has technically remained vacant. HRSA has a senior dental advisor, but the position does not have executive authority or direct access to HRSA officials who make decisions about oral health programs.

“Without this leader, the health of more than 3 million people served through HRSA programs, including many of the most vulnerable and underserved, is being left at risk, managed by administrators without formal training in oral health and dentistry,” said Donald.

“A dentist in the chief dental officer role would be able to draw from his or her practice expertise and clinical knowledge to best identify our country’s oral health challenges, develop solutions in response, and ensure that each dollar spent is done so in a way that will result in better oral health outcomes,” Donald said.

HRSA provides more than $50 million to fund oral health programs each year, despite the lack of a chief dental officer with executive level authority and resources to oversee these programs and initiatives. Also, the chief dental officer position has never been granted a separate budget or line-item authority like similar appointments at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, or other agencies.

In March, the Organized Dentistry Coalition sent chair Tom Cole and ranking member Rosa DeLauro of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies a letter also calling for the inclusion of report language in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 funding to re-establish the chief dental officer position. The coalition includes the AGD and AADR as well as the ADA, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Periodontology, and other organizations.

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