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ADA comments on Kellogg Alaska Health Aide Therapist Program study

Issue 10

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Dental Association (ADA) said today that it welcomes an organization of the stature of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to join the fight to improve the nation's oral health.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Dental Association (ADA) said today that it welcomes an organization of the stature of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to join the fight to improve the nation's oral health.

"We do not believe, however, that the report Kellogg released today on the Alaska Dental Health Aide Therapist program -- constituting a study of only five therapists and 300 patients -- delivers the kind of data on which major health policy decisions should be made," stated ADA President Raymond Gist, D.D.S. "The ADA believes that prevention, oral health literacy, and rebuilding our public health infrastructure should guide concerned stakeholders as we seek a permanent solution to the access-to-care crisis in this country."

Dr. Gist pointed out that the principal investigator concedes in the report that the evaluation did not assess the overall impact that treatment by dental therapists could have on improving the oral health of Alaska natives.

The ADA believes that workforce innovations such as its own community dental health coordinator (CDHC) show greater potential in helping underserved people overcome the profound barriers that limit or completely block their access to dentists. The CDHC is based on a proven model -- the community health worker -- which has been extraordinarily successful in educating patients in their various communities to seek medical care. According to Dr. Gist, the ADA believes that a similar model could be equally effective in promoting dental care.

The degree and severity of disease among underserved communities, whether they are in inner cities, remote rural communities, or on Tribal lands, demands sustainable solutions. The ADA says that any investment of limited resources should be directed to improving the ability of the current dental workforce to address this problem.

Dr. Gist said that the nation needs a concerted effort by all who are concerned about the oral health of the underserved to help the dental profession locate dental homes for our entire population. This will require adequate funding for safety net programs, implementing loan reduction/forgiveness programs for new graduates from dental schools, boosting our efforts to educate our patients to properly maintain their oral health with effective hygiene, providing urgent care by dentists for patients with immediate needs, and the inclusion of all of our initiatives to prevent and control the epidemic of untreated disease.

The ADA welcomes input from and dialogue with all stakeholders who are dedicated to overcoming the barriers to dental care that too many in this country face. A concerted effort that reflects a long term, evidence-based approach will enable the dental profession to implement a sustainable system for delivering high-quality dental care to those Americans who currently lack it.

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