The future of oral health: A call to action

This time around, I am going to forego a nut-and-bolts economic examination of a particular aspect of dentistry in the interest of addressing a key issue that has direct impact on the economic future of dentists everywhere - a matter that strikes, in fact, at the heart of patient wellness and, indeed, at the very core of our livelihood.

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Rob Veis, DDS

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: National Dental Association, caries, CDC, Oral Health Caucus, Dr. Rob Veis.

This time around, I am going to forego a nut-and-bolts economic examination of a particular aspect of dentistry in the interest of addressing a key issue that has direct impact on the economic future of dentists everywhere — a matter that strikes, in fact, at the heart of patient wellness and, indeed, at the very core of our livelihood.

I recently was privileged to attend the annual NDA on the Hill forum, where members of the NDA (National Dental Association) meet as an organization with congresspeople and senators to discuss health-care issues — particularly those in oral health care.

Also on hand were Senators Ben Cardin of Maryland and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico; House of Representatives members (and co-chairs of the Oral Health Caucus) Elijah Cummings and Mike Simpson; Georgia Congressman and noted Civil Rights Leader John Lewis … to name a few.

The issue

All came together to weigh in on current voiced intentions of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to downgrade the Division of Oral Health to a “branch” designation.

This new declaration directly contradicts the announcement (of a little more than a year ago) in the 2010 Oral Health Initiative which clearly maintained that oral health was a “wide ranging priority.”

When the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health Leadership spoke of the need to address redundant programs, Oral Health was not included in the projected reorganization efforts. In fact, goals for oral health were included within each agency of Health and Human Services.

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The danger

The very real fear here is that downgrading the status to the lesser branch designation will ultimately, if unintentionally, result in oral health issues being dangerously marginalized as the CDC endeavors to combat chronic diseases.

The fact is that caries is a chronic disease — five times more prevalent than asthma in children. Tooth decay and periodontal disease are also linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. It is also highly preventable.

The call

Oral health must not be reduced in significance and impact from a division to a “branch” by the CDC. This change threatens to wreak havoc on our industry goals in the areas of research, education, and access to care … not to mention our practices’ bottom line. It compromises our mission: that of providing the best care possible in the most economical fashion while making a fair living.

The co-chairs of the Oral Health Caucus, Mike Simpson, DDS (R-ID) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), have penned a letter to the CDC which calls upon the chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Committee, the Honorable Denny Rehberg, and ranking member of the committee, the Honorable Rosa DeLauro, to preserve the current division status of Oral Health in the CDC.

I call upon all dentists to review the available material, examine the issue, and respond accordingly. Please join with the NDA, the ADA, fellow dentists and Representatives Simpson and Cummings in doing your part to ensure that oral health remains a priority in the scope of better health for all Americans, and that it remains a separate and empowered division of the CDC. Please take a few moments to contact your local U.S. Representative with your concerns. Thank you.

Take action

Write your member of Congress and ask that he or she sign on to the letter from Reps. Simpson and Cummings, or contact Nate Greene in Rep. Simpson’s office at (202) 225-5531 or Heidi Ross in Rep. Cummings’s office at (202) 225-4741 for more information about the “Dear Colleague” letter.

Dr. Rob Veis is CEO of the Appliance Therapy Group® (ATG). Reach him through www.appliancetherapy.com or by calling (800) 423-3270.

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