Urging a holistic approach to oral health

By: Colin Reusch

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams addresses oral health stakeholders at report listening session.
 

CDHP submitted comments on the direction of the upcoming U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health. Upon announcing that oral health would once again be the focus of a Surgeon General’s Report, federal officials solicited public comments aimed at providing the report’s authors with a better understanding of the current oral health landscape. CDHP participated in an initial stakeholder listening session in November 2018 and provided in-person feedback. Our formal comments attempt to shed additional light on high-priority policy issues that are relevant to improving the oral health of children and families.

In general, CDHP urges the Surgeon General’s report team to make specific and actionable recommendations to policymakers. It’s important for the next report to provide as clear a path as possible to address persistent problems, many of which were highlighted in the 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America.

We hope the next report frames oral health in the context of both clinical care and holistic efforts aimed at improving the broad array of socio-economic factors that families face.

To be sure, over the last two decades, there have been significant expansions in coverage for children and a reduction in untreated tooth decay. But barriers still exist when it comes to access, care coordination, integration of oral health into medical care, adult coverage, and meaningful data and measurement. Without policies that require or incentivize change, these barriers may continue to exist for another twenty years.

CDHP also urges the report team to collaborate with and learn from other federal initiatives, including the Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Community Health and Prosperity. As we’ve previously noted, oral health has an impact on child and family well-being that go far beyond the clinical realm. That’s why we hope the next report frames oral health in the context of both clinical care and holistic efforts aimed at improving the broad array of socio-economic factors that families face.

Because parent/caregiver oral health is so closely linked to child health and families’ long-term success, CDHP’s comments give special attention to the need to address oral health for pregnant women. As our Unanswered Questions issue brief highlights, many pregnant women face barriers to even basic oral health care. This is especially true in Medicaid, where it is optional for state programs to include dental coverage for adults and pregnant women. By contrast, Medicaid guarantees dental coverage for children up to age 19. Despite agreement by both medical and dental professionals on the importance of oral health during pregnancy, our nation has yet to truly prioritize access for people who are pregnant or are parenting. As such, we hope the Surgeon General’s report will call for policies that ensure coverage and access to oral health care for pregnant women and new mothers.

Read CDHP's comments on the next U.S. Surgeon General's Rport on Oral Health.
 

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children ages 6-12 suffered a toothache in the previous six months.
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