Event on Capitol Hill Focuses on the Growing Need for Oral Health for Older Adults

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Oral Health America Brings Together Oral Health Leaders to Discuss Importance of Oral Health for All Americans

Left to right, Dr. R. Ivan Lugo of Procter & Gamble, Fay Donohue of DentaQuest, Congressman Elijah Cummings, and Dr. Roderick King from the Florida Institute of Public Health.

We are in the process of removing many of the cultural, educational, and institutional barriers to care, but there is much to be done.--Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD)

To celebrate the launch of the annual Fall for Smiles® campaign and bring attention to the country's lack of oral health care resources for older adults, Oral Health America (OHA) and Oral Healthcare Can't Wait, an initiative of the Dental Trade Alliance, hosted a briefing entitled "A State of Decay: Coming of Age Without Oral Healthcare" on Capitol Hill on Sept. 11. The event honored Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) for his work in addressing oral health disparities across the country.

“I am deeply honored by Oral Health America’s recognition of my work to ensure that all Americans have access to quality dental care,” Congressman Cummings said. “I commend Oral Health America for its leadership in fighting for underserved communities and for effectively raising the profile of oral healthcare. I am extremely proud of the progress we have made. We are in the process of removing many of the cultural, educational, and institutional barriers to care, but there is much to be done. My commitment to oral health remains strong and I look forward to our continued work together to strengthen our nation’s oral healthcare system.”

"This day on Capitol Hill is invaluable for us as an organization to come together with policy makers and leaders in the dental industry to bring attention to the importance of oral health on a national level," said OHA President and CEO Beth Truett. "Our country's older adult population is growing exponentially and is facing difficulties in accessing oral health care in addition to more complicated oral health issues as they age. According to our recent survey, 35 percent of low-income older adults have not been to the dentist in four or more years, with most citing financial concerns. Older Americans are being forgotten and OHA will not standby.”

The event also featured speakers Dr. R. Ivan Lugo of Procter & Gamble, Dr. Roderick King from the Florida Institute of Public Health, Gary Price of the Dental Trade Alliance, and Fay Donohue from DentaQuest, who spoke about payment systems and recommendations for older adult oral health.

“I am honored to join Oral Health America in advocating for better quality and more access to oral health for seniors. Dental problems are a serious health risk that account for a growing number of emergency room visits each year, but the difficulties seniors face in access to care is too often overlooked,” said Donohue, CEO of DentaQuest, the third largest dental benefits administrator in the United States. “Today’s retiring baby boomers and older adults are an influential and growing demographic and I encourage them to continue advocating for strong policies that support oral health initiatives for seniors.”

Prior to the briefing, OHA's board of directors met with 38 members of the Senate and Congress to discuss funding oral health care provisions within the Affordable Care Act. OHA requested the following appropriations: funding for Title VII of the Public Health Service Act which funds the education and training of health professionals, including all members of the dental team, post-doctoral residencies and trainings, faculty development, and general and pediatric faculty loan repayment programs; funding for grants to study alternative oral health workforce providers to serve in rural and undeserved areas; funding for school-based sealant programs; and funding for dental caries disease management grants.

In addition to the event's lead sponsor, Crest + OralB, Fall for Smiles would not be possible without the generous support of the following companies: 3M ESPE, the American Association of Dental Office Managers, Atlantic Precious Metal Refining, Crest + OralB, DentaQuest, Denticator, the Hispanic Dental Association, Hu-Friedy, Oral Healthcare Can't Wait, OSAP, Midmark, the National Dental Association, and Trident.

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About Oral Health America
OHA’s mission is to change lives by connecting communities with resources to increase access to oral health care, education and advocacy for all Americans, especially those most vulnerable. For more information about Oral Health America, please visit http://www.oralhealthamerica.org.

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Melissa Hoebbel
Oral Health America
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