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Office of the Surgeon General (US). National Call To Action To Promote Oral Health. Rockville (MD): National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (US); 2003.

Cover of National Call To Action To Promote Oral Health

National Call To Action To Promote Oral Health.

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The National Call To Action To Promote Oral Health is addressed to professional organizations and individuals concerned with the health of their fellow Americans. It is an invitation to expand plans, activities, and programs designed to promote oral health and prevent disease, especially to reduce the health disparities that affect members of racial and ethnic groups, poor people, many who are geographically isolated, and others who are vulnerable because of special oral health care needs. The National Call To Action To Promote Oral Health, referred to as the Call To Action, reflects the work of a partnership of public and private organizations who have specified a vision, goals, and a series of actions to achieve the goals. It is their hope to inspire others to join in the effort, bringing their expertise and experience to enrich the partnership and thus accelerate a movement to enhance the oral and general health and well-being of all Americans.

Origins of the Call To Action

Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General alerted Americans to the importance of oral health in their daily lives1. The Report, issued in May 2000, provided state-of-the-science evidence on the growth and development of oral, dental and craniofacial tissues and organs; the diseases and conditions affecting them; and the integral relationship between oral health and general health, including recent reports of associations between chronic oral infections and diabetes, osteoporosis, heart and lung conditions, and certain adverse pregnancy outcomes. The text further detailed how oral health is promoted, how oral diseases and conditions are prevented and managed, and what needs and opportunities exist to enhance oral health. Major findings and themes of the report are highlighted in Table 1.

Table 1. Major Findings and Themes from Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General.

Table 1

Major Findings and Themes from Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General.

The Report’s message was that oral health is essential to general health and well-being and can be achieved. However, a number of barriers hinder the ability of some Americans from attaining optimal oral health. The Surgeon General’s Report concluded with a framework for action, calling for a national oral health plan to improve quality of life and eliminate oral health disparities.

The Rationale for Action

The rationale for action is based on data from the Surgeon General’s Report (Table 2). These and other data on the economic, social, and personal burdens of oral diseases and disorders show that although the nation has made substantial improvements in oral health, more must be done.

Table 2. The Burden of Oral Diseases and Disorders .

Table 2

The Burden of Oral Diseases and Disorders .

The nation’s total bill for dental services was estimated by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to be $70.1 billion in 2002; this figure underestimates the true cost because it does not take into account the indirect expenses of oral health problems, nor the cost of services by other health care providers. These other providers include specialists who treat people with craniofacial birth defects, such as cleft lip or palate, and children born with genetic diseases that result in malformed teeth, hair, skin, and nails, as happens in the ectodermal dysplasias. Patients with oral cancers, chronic pain conditions such as temporomandibular (jaw) disorders, autoimmune disease such as Sjögren’s syndrome (which leads to the destruction of the salivary and tear glands) and victims of unintentional or intentional facial injury are examples of other groups of patients who may require costly and long-term oral and medical services. Beyond these expenses are the millions of school and work hours lost every year because of oral health problems.


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