The Action for Dental Health Act of 2017, written by Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), recently passed the House Subcommittee on Health. This bill secures $18 million in each year from 2018-2022 to fund oral health promotion and disease awareness programs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The bill received bipartisan support from the subcommittee and next faces the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. H.R. 2422 is summarized as, "To amend the Public Health Service Act to improve essential oral healthcare for low-income and other underserved individuals by breaking down barriers to care, and for other purposes."

H.R. 2422 was first introduced May and claims that more than 181 million Americans don't go to the dentist, even though nearly half of the adult population over the age of 30 has some form of gum disease. It also claims a quarter of children 5 and younger have cavities.

The goal of this bill is to provide adequate funding to help significantly improve oral health across the nation, especially by improving access to dental care for impoverished and at-risk populations throughout the U.S., including children and the elderly.

Over $2.1 billion in dental-related emergency room visits occurred in 2010, the Action for Dental Health Act of 2017 also alleges. The idea is that improved funding for regular dental care would reduce these costs, as about 80 percent of these cases were nonurgent. The bill would also fund voluntary dental programs that provide care at little to no cost for those populations without access to adequate dental care.

In his opening statement, Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas) said, "As a provider who spent much of his three decades in practice caring for vulnerable populations, I have the utmost respect for other providers who go out of their way to help those who cannot always help themselves."

The bill enables the CDC to contract funding or fund grants for medical equipment, operational costs, outreach programs and more. It can also be used to cover transportation costs to appointments.

Dr. Cheryl D. Watson-Lowry, a general practitioner in Illinois, testified on the behalf of the American Dental Association in favor of the bill when it was initially introduced in May for this reason.

"Millions of Americans suffer pain and poor oral health because they cannot afford or cannot get to a dentist," Watson-Lowry said. "The Action for Dental Health Act is an important first step in bringing this critical healthcare to underserved communities, both in rural and urban America."