In a hearing before the US Subcommittee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on September 12, 2013, witnesses testified about the national dental crisis facing the country. Academics, community health clinic directors, and a social worker shared stories of parents pleading for care for their children who were suffering from painful toothaches, restrictive state laws that prevent dental therapists from providing care, exorbitant costs for dental care and dental school tuition, and low Medicaid reimbursement, according to

The hearing was called by Senator Bernard Sanders (I-Vt), where he also submitted the Comprehensive Dental Reform Act of 2013. The act aims to expand dental coverage, create new access points, enhance the workforce of dental professionals, improve education, and provide funding for new research. It is a revised version of the Comprehensive Dental Reform Act of 2012.

Sanders pointed out the growing numbers of children and poor adults, seniors, immigrants, and rural residents with little or no access to dental care. With improvements to healthcare delivery programs, new workforce models, increased Medicaid reimbursements, and changes to state laws, Sanders believes patients will be better served and millions of dollars saved from patients not seeking treatment in hospital emergency departments.

While the American Dental Association did not attend the hearing, it released a statement commending Senator Sanders’ efforts to increase access to dental care but said the proposed solutions “have been too few and too narrow in scope.” The statement went on to say, “We hope that this latest hearing is a jumping-off point for Congressional action that leads to more coverage—and more care—for those who need it most.”