Good oral health is essential to good overall health. The largely preventable problem of poor oral health has widespread repercussions ranging from lost time at school and work to reduced quality of life and increased incidence of non-oral health problems. It is exacerbated by lack of access to quality care and disproportionately concentrated among underserved people.
In 2000, the Surgeon General released a groundbreaking examination of the state of oral health in America. While noting that progress had been made over the previous half-century, the Surgeon General concluded that a “silent epidemic” of untreated dental and oral diseases exists throughout the country. He called for a national partnership to improve the oral health care delivery system and to address disparities in access to care
In 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released two reports that examine the progress that has been made since the Surgeon General’s report. The IOM concludes that many oral health problems stem from poor oral health care and sets forth strategies and recommendations to improve access to care, particularly among underserved and vulnerable populations. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a number of provisions that target poor oral health directly, as well as a large number designed to increase access to care and quality of public health and health care in general.
This issue brief describes the problem of poor oral health care in America. It then discusses the solutions suggested by the 2011 IOM reports and the provisions of the ACA intended to positively impact oral health care in America.