The Oral Health Literacy Act would fund educational outreach to underserved populations emphasizing the importance of oral health.

On October 12, the Oral Health Literacy Act of 2022 was introduced in the US Senate. The American Association of Orthodontists joined its allies within the dental community, including many members of the Organized Dentistry Coalition (ODC), in sending a letter of appreciation to Senators Ben Ray Lujan, D-New Mexico, Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the bill’s original sponsors.

Through the Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will develop and implement evidence-based oral health literacy strategies that will be measured based on effectiveness and outcomes.

The legislation aims to positively contribute to more individuals seeking and obtaining regular dental care and becoming more aware of oral health needs, such as orthodontic treatment, according to the AAO.

The letter of appreciation noted above conveyed that dentists continue to observe significant disparities in dental care and the progression of preventable tooth decay and disease by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

The Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act of 2022 would authorize HRSA to receive $750,000 per year for fiscal years 2023 through 2027 to establish an Oral Health Literacy education campaign that communicates directly with many of the populations most impacted by poor oral health.

Increasing oral health literacy among the at-risk populations served by HRSA will help prevent the development of serious disease, mitigate high-cost emergency care, and encourage greater use of the oral healthcare system.

A companion bipartisan bill to this legislation was passed by the House of Representatives by a 369-58 vote in December 2021.

The AAO joins its allies within the dental community in urging the Senate to act swiftly to pass this legislation during the 117th Congress, so HRSA may receive the dedicated funding necessary to establish an effective education campaign that addresses these oral health issues.

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