The ADA launched a nationwide campaign in May to combat what it calls “a disturbing dental divide in America.”
The Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference is designed to counter staggering statistics such as these: 181 million Americans didn't visit a dentist in 2010, nearly half of the population over the age of 30 is suffering from some form of gum disease and nearly one in four children under the age of 5 already has cavities.
According to the ADA, the Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference will address the dental health crisis in these three distinct areas:
1. Provide care now to people suffering with untreated disease:
- Reduce by 35 percent by 2020 the number of people who visit the emergency room for dental conditions by referring them to community health centers, private dental practices or other settings where they can receive proper dental care.
- Implement in at least 10 states by 2015 a long-term care program to improve the oral health of nursing home residents.
- Expand the ADA Give Kids A Smile local community programs to provide education, screening and treatment to underserved children in order to achieve the vision statement of Give Kids A Smile – the elimination of cavities in children under age 5 by 2020.
2. Strengthen and expand the public/private safety net to provide more care to more Americans:
- Help provide more care to people by having private-practice dentists contract with federally qualified health centers, therefore increasing the number of patients receiving oral health services 175 percent by 2020.
- Fight for increased dental health protections and simplified administration under Medicaid by increasing by 10 percent the number of states that have streamlined their credentialing process to less than one month.
3. Bring dental health education and disease prevention into communities:
- Ensure that 80 percent of Americans on public water systems have access to optimally fluoridated drinking water by 2020.
- Increase from seven to 15 the number of states where community dental health coordinators are active by 2015. CDHCs provide dental education and prevention services to the community and help people navigate the dental health system.
The ADA also recently released a study titled "ADA Dental Divide in America." The study found that:
- Nearly half of lower-income adults say they haven't seen a dentist in a year or longer, while the vast majority of middle- and higher-income wage earners (70 percent) have.
- Lower-income adults 18 and older are more than two times as likely as middle- and higher-income adults to have had all of their teeth removed (7 percent vs. 3 percent).
- Nearly one in five (18 percent) lower-income adults have reported that they or a household member has sought treatment for dental pain in an emergency room at some point in their lives, compared to only 7 percent of middle- and higher-income adults.
- Only 6 percent of those low-income adults who went to the emergency room reported that the problem was solved.
- Even though the Affordable Care Act does not include adult dental coverage as an essential benefit, 40 percent of lower-income adults believe that health care reform will help them obtain dental care.
To learn more about the ADA's Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference, visit ADA.org.