Oral Health Literacy Bill Advancing Through Congress

Published on April 25, 2022 by Yehuda Sugarman

The Oral Health Literacy and Awareness Act (H.R. 4555), legislation that would promote oral health literacy among vulnerable populations, passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a 369-58 vote in December of last year.

AADOCR has supported the measure since it was first introduced in 2019 and has advocated for its passage through various letters sent to Congress.

H.R.4555, introduced by U.S. Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), authorizes the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to develop and test evidence-based oral health literacy strategies to provide oral disease prevention education through a five-year oral health literacy campaign. The campaign is designed to promote oral health literacy in underserved communities in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.

The legislation is necessitated by research from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that found that only 43.3% of Americans visited the dentist in 2016, a figure lower than the baseline set by the department in 2007 (44.5%). Additionally, there are disturbing oral health disparities in dental care and the progression of preventable tooth decay and disease by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and education.

On Friday, AADOCR joined its partners in the Organized Dentistry Coalition, in sending a letter to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) urging them to quickly take up the House-passed Oral Health Literacy & Awareness Act. Last year, the Association communicated its support for the bill to the leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee calling on them to advance the legislation to the full House for a vote.

HRSA has demonstrated a commitment to improving oral health among the most vulnerable populations and has already received funding, through prior legislation, to develop an oral health literacy education campaign. Enacting H.R. 4555 would allow HRSA to move forward with implementation by authorizing $750,000 per annum for fiscal years 2022 through 2026.

AADOCR, in conjunction with the dental advocacy community, will continue to advocate for passage of this legislation during the current session of Congress.