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 479 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 that all older Americans can access oral healthcare as they do medical healthcare – through Medicare. Because, Medicare does not cover routine preventive or restorative services, the Medicaid dental benefit is currently one of the few options available for lower income older adults seeking oral healthcare. However, Medicaid dental benefits vary by state, and in eight states coverage is non-existent; only four states provide comprehensive coverage.

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 40 to 60 percent.

3) Increase Access to Dental Care for Children by Reauthorizing and Funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program

OHA advocates for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) because it has helped millions of low-income children and pregnant women access the healthcare they need and deserve, since 1997. CHIP is the only insurance that guarantees eight million children a dental health benefit that includes coverage for dental visits, cleanings, fluoride, sealants and fillings.

4) 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.

5) Sustain Community Water Fluoridation 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) has proven to be the simplest, safest, and most effective way for millions of Americans, including older Americans, to receive preventive oral health care for the past 70 years.

6) Support Caregivers through Passage of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act

OHA seeks passage of the RAISE (Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage) Family Caregivers Act, H.R. 3099 in the House; the act is a companion bill to S. 1719 passed by the Senate in December 2015. RAISE directs the Department of Health and Human Services to develop, maintain and periodically update a National Family Caregiving Strategy to support America’s 42 million family caregivers, who help with a myriad of activities of daily living, including tasks related to dressing, bathing, eating, purchasing and administering medications and oral health care. OHA emphasizes that implementation of the RAISE Act should make health resources, training and education for caregivers more readily available and should include materials about the importance of oral health for overall health and wellness.

7) Back Policies that Eliminate Tobacco Use Among Youth

OHA supports policies that protect teens from the risky behavior of tobacco use, which presents risks for developing oral cancer and other mouth and respiratory diseases. This includes support for Tobacco 21 and legislation that keeps baseball fields free of tobacco use. National data show that 95 percent of adult smokers begin smoking before they turn 21. Tobacco 21 legislation would raise the minimum tobacco age to 21 to dramatically prevent or reduce tobacco use among teens. Banning tobacco and smokeless tobacco usage in America’s baseball parks and venues sets a positive example for youth and discourages them from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.

8) Support Workforce Expansion and Innovation

OHA supports legislative efforts that expand the health professional participants in the dental team to eliminate disparities among vulnerable populations, and to 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.

Download OHA's Legislative Priorities (PDF 479 kB)