State dental director significant win for oral health

The establishment of a state dental director position — a goal CDA has actively pursued for years — is slated to become a reality after the state Legislature approved the 2014-15 state budget on June 15.

The budget, which is expected to be signed by the governor by July 1, calls for two positions — a state dental director, who must be a licensed dentist, and an epidemiologist — in the Department of Public Health to establish and implement a state oral health program.

The budget provides $474,000 in funding for the first year to assess oral health needs in the state, develop and manage a state oral health plan, and apply for and manage federal and private grants to support oral health. The governor proposed this funding in his April budget revisions.

“This is the most impactful state oral health achievement in decades. CDA members have collectively worked for and supported the establishment of a state dental director for many years,” said CDA President James Stephens, DDS. “This is a significant step toward addressing the oral health care crisis facing millions of Californians through coordinated state oral health education and preventive programs led by a dental director and partnered with care provided by dentists across the state.”

CDA made the establishment of a state dental director a top priority of its access to care plan, Phased Strategies for Reducing the Barriers to Dental Care in California. The report was developed in 2011 as a comprehensive strategic approach to reducing barriers to oral health care for vulnerable Californians.

“CDA advocated to the governor’s office that a dental director must be a licensed dentist with strong experience in state oral health programs to organize and execute essential dental public health functions.” said Stephens. “The dental director will create a high-level point of contact within the administration on dental health issues.”

In addition to developing and implementing a state oral health plan, the dental director’s role will also include establishing prevention and oral health literacy projects and working to secure funding for prevention-focused oral health and essential disease prevention services, particularly for children.

CDA is committed to work with the state as the recruitment and hiring process begins immediately for a state dental director and epidemiologist. CDA will keep members informed on this issue in the eNewsletter, Update and on cda.org.