June 9, 2022 (BOSTON, MA) — American Institute of Dental Public Health and CareQuest Institute for Oral Health® today commended U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for filing amendments to help expand access to dental care for veterans. The amendments are being considered as part of the Honoring Our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act of 2022.
Veterans are more likely than non-veterans to experience oral diseases that affect their quality of life, including higher rates of tooth decay, higher rates of gum disease, and an increased need for restorative dental care. Additionally, many veterans don’t have access to or aren’t eligible for dental care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
“One of the many crises facing the dysfunctional health care system in the United States is that we do not recognize dental care as health care,” said Sanders. “There is no question that dental problems have an impact on overall health. You have veterans out there who are struggling with diabetes, struggling with heart disease, and their problems are exacerbated by poor oral health and yet they can’t get the dental care they need. By ignoring dental care, we cause other health care problems and we increase expenses to the VA. That is absurd. The bottom line is, dental care is health care.”
“We applaud Sen. Sanders for filing this amendment to improve access to dental services for veterans and address the long-standing obstacles many of them face when seeking this critical care,” said Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, president and CEO of CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. “Here at CareQuest Institute, we believe that all veterans deserve access to equitable oral health care. In partnership with the American Institute of Dental Public Health (AIDPH) and the veteran community, we are actively exploring solutions to close this existing gap in care and access and we are committed to continuing our work with Sen. Sanders and others to push for legislative changes to help veterans get the oral health care they need and deserve.”
“This amendment is an important step in addressing the longstanding dental inequity experienced by U.S. veterans,” said Dr. Annaliese Cothron, executive director of the American Institute of Dental Public Health. “Our collaborative research with CareQuest Institute has clearly highlighted not only the substantial need but significant cost savings associated with expanded access to dental care through the VA. We appreciate Sen. Sanders leading necessary legislative efforts that increase access to care and look forward to jointly advancing equitable oral health for veterans.”
Sen. Sanders’ amendment #5074 directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide dental care to all covered veterans who are not currently eligible for dental services, including through the use of mobile dental clinics, teledentistry, and dental therapists to help address the many barriers veterans face when accessing dental care. The amendment also includes language to establish education programming to promote dental health for veterans, and creates a student debt repayment program for incoming dental professionals who serve veterans at VA dental clinics.
A new visual report from CareQuest Institute and AIDPH shows that improving dental care for veterans reduces costs, improves overall health, and stimulates the economy. The report includes some heartbreaking firsthand accounts from veterans who are struggling to access oral health care.
CareQuest Institute and AIDPH also recently released a white paper focused on solutions supporting veteran oral health.
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About CareQuest Institute for Oral Health®
CareQuest Institute for Oral Health® is a national nonprofit championing a more equitable future where every person can reach their full potential through excellent health. We do this through our work in grantmaking, research, health improvement programs, policy and advocacy, and education as well as our leadership in dental benefits and innovation advancements. We collaborate with thought leaders, health care providers, patients, and local, state, and federal stakeholders, to accelerate oral health care transformation and create a system designed for everyone. To learn more, visit carequest.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.
About American Institute of Dental Public Health
The American Institute of Dental Public Health (AIDPH) is a 501c3 nonprofit centering health equity as a cornerstone of oral health education and training. We offer educational training for oral health professionals, support student growth and career development in dental public health, and serve as conveners of stature to facilitate systems change in the oral health community. AIDPH was established to pursue our mission of fostering professional excellence and advancing innovation in the education and practice of dental public health. Join us as we create our vision: an equity-oriented workforce prepared to lead. To learn more, visit aidph.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.