Exploring the Nation's Oral Health Gap

What will it take to improve access and quality of oral care, especially for the most vulnerable?

Closing America's Oral Health Care Gap graphicThat was the focus of “Closing America’s Oral Health Gap,” a POLITICO LIVE event, presented by DentaQuest, that explored the challenges in oral care disparities and the policies and strategies that can help solve them. More than 900 health leaders from around the country joined the 45-minute session, which included an engaging discussion and several thought-provoking audience questions.

“Oral health care is a topic that is often overshadowed by a broader health care debate,” said Adriel Bettelheim, POLITICO’s health care editor and moderator, at the outset of the Dec. 10 event. “But it’s a subject that offers a lens into so many critical issues.”

Elizabeth Gianini, DentaQuest’s Senior Vice President of Government Relations, opened the event by framing many of those issues.

“While many of us don’t think twice about visiting the dentist for preventive care like cleanings and routine procedures, more than 74 million Americans lack basic access to coverage. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic upended our economy, leaving millions more without jobs,” Gianini said. “Sadly, lack of access is just the first part of the story. In this country, Black adults are nearly 70% more likely than white adults to have unmet dental needs. And that has a very real impact on overall health.”

From there, three oral health experts — Ann Battrell, MSDH; Charles E. Moore, MD; and Richard W. Valachovic, DMD, MPH — discussed a variety of approaches that could help close the gap, including an adult dental benefit for Medicaid subscribers across all states, an emphasis on preventative care, greater use of technology like teledentistry and improved integration between medical and dental care.

Click the video below to watch the full session or the videos on the right to watch Gianini’s introduction and the expert panel discussion. 

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Featured Speakers:
Charles E. Moore, MD, FAACE Headshot

Charles E. Moore, MD, FAACE

Cief of Service, Dept. of Otolaryngology, Grady Health System
Founder & President, Healing Community Center
Director, Emory Urban Health Initiative



Richard W. Valachovic, DMD, MPH

Visiting Scholar, NYU College of Dentistry & Former President and CEO, American Dental Education Association


Ann Battrell, MSDH Headshot

Ann Battrell, MSDH

CEO, American Dental Hygienists' Association

Moderated by: Adriel Bettelheim, Health Care Editor, POLITICO
Presented by: DentaQuest
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