With a guiding vision that all people should have access to good
oral health care, the American Dental Association (ADA) recently released its Future of Dentistry (FOD) report, outlining ways in which the dental profession can help make the vision a reality.
"Dentistry's future ability to promote the oral health of the nation will include its capacity to integrate new and better technology into practice, and to respond to changing consumer needs," explains Dr. Gregory Chadwick, ADA president. "We must make sure that there are sufficient numbers of well-trained dentists and that the needs of people who do not have access to dental care are addressed."
Dr. Chadwick emphasizes the report is a roadmap saying, "It will help give every dentist more tools to provide the best care to the public and assist in providing access to dental care for all Americans."
The ADA commissioned an oversight committee of 16 oral health care experts and 47 panelists from specialized areas of expertise to develop the 178-page document that will serve as a non-policy guide.
The document describes the status of the U.S. dental profession, observes trends and challenges for the next five to 15 years, and makes recommendations to meet those challenges. The 114 recommendations focus on six areas, including access to care, dental workforce and practice management, financing of dental services, research and dental education.
Access-to-care recommendations include expansion of public funding to provide resources that would cover basic dental services for the long-term unemployed. To assure participation by providers, the report recommends reimbursement for dentists at market rates, and that the program's administration utilize the same procedures and systems as employer-based dental programs.
The report calls for a publicly funded or subsidized dental program for people with disabilities, recognizing their special needs. It also
recommends establishing tax-deferred dental/medical savings accounts in which the balances accrue over time for use by the elderly as needed during retirement.
To assure that dental services are available to all who need them, the report calls for studies to assess if the dental workforce satisfies population demands.
"The workforce differs across the country and within specific
communities," said Dr. Leslie Seldin, committee chairperson and practicing general dentist from New York City. "These studies will assess the number of dental care providers available to treat the public and provide an in-depth analysis of the need for dental care as well as demand for care."
Dr. Seldin says that because the national supply of dental services will increase substantially through increased productivity and efficient use of allied dental personnel, an increase in the number of dentists may not be necessary.
However, he said the dominant method for delivery of oral health care would continue to be through solo and small group dental practices.