The House of Representatives passed the Action for Dental Health Act of 2017 (HR 2422) by a vote of 387-13 on February 26. Co-authored by Congresswoman Robin Kelly (D-IL) and dentist and Congressman Mike Simpson(R-ID), it authorizes $18 million annually for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Oral Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Programs and $13.9 million annually for five years for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grants to states to support oral health workforce activities.
“Unfortunately, too many Americans lack access to oral healthcare because of cost or a lack of dentists in their area. This bill starts to change that by making oral healthcare more accessible,” said Kelly. “In a time of a deeply divided Congress, I’m glad that Congressman Simpson and I could put forward a bipartisan bill that would win the support of hundreds of our colleagues.”
“I am thrilled with the overwhelming bipartisan support for the Action for Dental Health Act,” Simpson said. “With house passage today, we are advancing a solution to better utilize resources to improve early diagnosis, intervention, and preventive treatments which can stop the progress of oral diseases.
The bill would establish a new “Action for Dental Health Program” within the CDC account that would provide grants for oral health education, dental disease prevention, and reducing barriers to dental services. Eligible entities would include state or local dental associations, state oral health programs, dental education programs, or community organizations that help facilitate dental services for underserved populations.
As part of the HRSA grants, the bill would expand programs that provide oral health services in dental health professional shortage areas to include:
- Establishing dental homes, which the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has defined as comprehensive oral healthcare, for children and adult
- Establishing initiatives to reduce the use of emergency departments for dental services
- Providing dental care to nursing home residents.
The bill has been received in the Senate, where it has been read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. It has been endorsed by the ADA, the National Dental Association, the American Dental Education Association, and other organizations.