Our Legislative Priorities

We believe all Americans should have equal opportunity to achieve good oral and overall health throughout their lives.

Our Legislative Priorities (PDF 441 kB) are based on increasing access to oral health care by advocating for innovative policies and evidence-based interventions, such as school-based sealant programs, guaranteed dental benefits in CHIP and Medicare, Community Water Fluoridation, and an interprofessional dental workforce.

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1) Advocate for Financially Viable Oral Health Benefits in Publicly-Funded Insurance

Oral Health America (OHA) supports research and development of a financially viable oral health benefit for inclusion in publicly funded insurance so all Medicare beneficiaries can access their oral healthcare as they do their medical care. Currently, 55 million adults access healthcare services through Medicare; however, beneficiaries are limited when it comes to accessing oral healthcare.

OHA recommends states work with advocates to reinstate or establish adult Medicaid dental coverage. Oral health care is essential to overall health but when state budgets are constrained, dental coverage is often the first benefit to be eliminated from Medicaid.

2) Expand Oral Health Services to All School-Based Health Centers.

OHA supports school-based dental sealant programs because they are the only evidence-based public health best practice for preventing tooth decay among children, especially those at highest risk. Because schools are an ideal place to reach children, sealants placed in school-based settings have been associated with reducing the incidence of tooth decay by 60 percent.

3) Increase Access to Dental Care for Children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

OHA advocates for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) because it helps nearly 9 million low-income children and 300,000 pregnant women access the healthcare they need. Since its enactment in 1997, CHIP has been a testament to successful bipartisan legislation and has drastically reduced the number of uninsured children from 13.9 percent to 4.5 percent today. CHIP is the only insurance that guarantees children a dental health benefit that includes coverage for dental visits, cleanings, fluoride, sealants and fillings.

4) Support Caregivers through the Implementation of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act

OHA believes the RAISE Act will make health resources, training and education for caregivers more readily available and elevate the importance of oral health for overall health and wellness. Preventing oral diseases in older adults requires a caregiver to understand the risk factors of these diseases. Oral health education is a necessity for family caregivers and the aging network if oral diseases are to be minimized and optimal oral health is to be achieved.

5) Back Policies that Eliminate Tobacco Use Among Youth

OHA supports policies that protect youth from the risky behavior of tobacco use, which presents risks for developing oral cancer and other mouth and respiratory diseases. This includes support for Tobacco21 and legislation that keeps baseball fields free of tobacco use.

6) Sustain Community Water Fluoridation (CWF) as an Evidence-based Public Health Practice to Positively Impact Oral Health at the Population Level

OHA recommends ongoing advocacy for the continued inclusion of fluoride in the water systems of all US communities. Community water fluoridation (CWF) is one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century and is recommended by nearly all public health, medical, and dental organizations.

7) Work to Implement the Oral Health Screenings Provision in the Older Americans Reauthorization Act of 2016

OHA recommends development of a plan to implement the new measure in the recently reauthorized Older Americans Act (OAA), which for the first time the OAA includes a provision allowing aging networks to use funds they already receive for disease prevention and health promotion activities to provide oral health screenings.

While the provision is not mandatory, and the provision is not sufficient, Oral Health America believes that it is an important step in recognizing
that maintaining good mouth health is a critical factor in maintaining overall health.

8) Support Workforce Expansion and Innovation

OHA supports legislative efforts that expand the dental team to eliminate disparities among vulnerable populations, and do so in a financially viable way. While OHA does not advocate for a particular alternative workforce model, OHA believes that an expanded oral health workforce will give low income children, adults, and older adults, in particular, greater access to oral healthcare and improve their oral health, allowing them to live healthfully and independently.