The first-ever Surgeon General’s report on oral health, Oral Health in America, released in May 2000, called attention to a “silent epidemic” of dental and oral diseases that burdens millions of children and adults throughout the United States. In the report, the Surgeon General addressed the importance of building a science and evidence base to improve oral health, building the infrastructure to address oral health, removing barriers to oral health services, and developing public-private partnerships to address disparities in oral health.
Oral health is essential to overall general health and well-being, but as Healthy People 2020 national oral health objectives are being finalized, there is growing recognition that many challenges identified 20 years ago have not been adequately addressed. Dental caries (tooth decay) is the single most common chronic childhood disease; there are striking disparities in oral diseases among various disadvantaged and underserved population subgroups; and approximately one-third of the U.S. population has no access to community water fluoridation.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) currently supports a broad spectrum of oral health activities that has had a significant and positive impact on the nation’s oral health through oral health financing, research, workforce development, public health action, quality initiatives and technology. The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Oral Health Coordinating Committee is compiling a summary of activities that captures the breadth and diversity of efforts within HHS to support oral health. In late 2009, HHS Assistant Secretary Howard Koh called for the implementation of an HHS-wide effort to improve the nation’s oral health by realigning existing resources and creating new activities. This new effort seeks to improve coordination and integration among programs to maximize outputs. In addition, nine new initiatives, highlighted in Promoting and Enhancing the Oral Health of the Public: HHS Oral Health Initiative 2010 (PDF - 935 KB), reflect Agency and Office commitment of new activities in support of an HHS Oral Health Initiative 2010.
The HHS Oral Health Initiative’s key message is that Oral Health is Integral to Overall Health. This initiative utilizes a systems-approach to create and finance programs to:
Under the leadership of the Assistant Secretary of Health and the Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration, with support from the Oral Health Coordinating Committee and the Office of Minority Health, the initiative renews HHS’s commitment to work with national and state partners and continues building upon the recommendations set forth in the Surgeon General’s Report and the National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health.
Oral Health is Integral to Overall Health