• by AGD Staff
  • Oct 13, 2022

Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) supports the work of U.S. Senators Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM). Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) who introduced the Oral Health and Literacy Awareness Act 2022 for consideration in the Senate yesterday. This legislation is a companion bill to H.R. 4555.

The Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act directs Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to develop and test evidence-based oral health literacy strategies capable of reaching across vulnerable populations to provide oral disease prevention education through a 5-year initiative. If passed this year, the Oral Health Literacy & Awareness Act authorizes $750,000 a year for 2023 to 2027.

Oral health literacy, defined as the individual capacity to understand and use health information to transform oral health behaviors, is key to increasing utilization of the oral health care system and improving health outcomes[1].  Most oral health ailments, including tooth decay, periodontal disease, and certain oral cancers, can be prevented by promoting oral health literacy among all populations, with an emphasis on children to ensure they develop and maintain healthy habits into adulthood.

Illnesses related to oral health results in 6.1 million days of bed disability, 12.7 million days of restricted activity, and 20.5 million lost workdays each year. The Healthy People 2020 failed to hit its targets of getting 49% of Americans to annually use the oral health care system. This legislation focuses on these areas of concern.

This authorization would build on the funding HRSA has received in the past three fiscal years to begin undertaking this effort. HRSA’s efforts will advise Congress on the outcomes and effectiveness of targeted oral health literacy strategies and will help inform future efforts to improve oral health literacy for all Americans.

“This legislation is critical to the health of our communities because it has broad implications and will support all populations impacted by oral disease including children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations,” said Gerald J. Botko, DMD, MAGD, AGD President. “AGD continues the fight to educate and help people obtain the services they need to protect their oral and overall health.”

The effort to improved oral health literacy and awareness, of which AGD was a leader, moved closer to reality earlier this year with the passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of the “Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2021,” legislation by Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL).

The legislative initiative is supported by: Academy of General Dentistry, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Periodontology, American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research, American Association of Endodontists, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Orthodontists, American College of Prosthodontists

American Dental Association, American Dental Education Association, American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists, American Student Dental Association, Diverse Dental Society, Hispanic Dental Association, National Dental Association, Society of American Indian Dentists, The Children's Oral Health Institute. Read letter

[1] Baskaradoss JK. Relationship between oral health literacy and oral health status. BMC Oral Health. 2018 Oct 24;18(1):172. doi: 10.1186/s12903-018-0640-1. PMID: 30355347; PMCID: PMC6201552.