The House of Representatives passed an AAO-supported bill to increase oral health literacy and awareness in at-risk populations.

On December 8, the Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act (H.R. 4555) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support.

H.R.4555 was introduced by Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) to amend the Public Health Service Act. Through a multi-year public health education campaign, it directs the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to increase oral health literacy and awareness in specific at-risk populations. 

Through the Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act, HRSA will develop and implement evidence-based oral health literacy strategies that will be measured based on effectiveness and outcomes. With a focus on informing the public, the bill will hopefully spur more people to seek and obtain regular dental care and become more aware of oral health needs, such as orthodontic treatment.

The American Association of Orthodontists put its support behind the bill, asking members to participate in its Voter Voice campaign to help move it forward. 

The AAO was joined by the Academy of General Dentistry and allies within the dental community, including members of the Organized Dentistry Coalition (ODC), in sending a letter of support for the legislation to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it was subsequently approved and sent to the House floor to pass.

The bill will now move to the Senate for consideration. 

“Oral health is a vital component of overall wellness that is too often overlooked. As with many aspects of healthcare, prevention is key to long-term health.  Lack of good oral hygiene has been proven to exacerbate chronic health conditions and contributes to costly yet preventable emergency care,” said Rep. Bilirakis in a press release. “I am proud to be a part of this initiative to raise awareness about the proactive steps that can be taken to improve oral healthcare as I believe it will improve patient outcomes.”

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