Healthy People 2020: Using Law and Policy to Promote the Use of Oral Health Services in the United States

Good oral health is essential to overall health and well-being, but oral health problems are common. More than 4 in 5 people have had at least one cavity by age 34, and more than 2 in 5 adults have had mouth pain in the past year.

And yet less than half of the population uses the oral health care system. Many common oral health problems like tooth decay, gum disease, and jaw disorders are preventable with regular oral care. But many people who need this care face barriers, which means they aren’t able to get the care they need.

This is a summary of the report, Oral Health: The Role of Law and Policy in Increasing the Use of Oral Health Services, which is the fifth in a series of reports that highlights the practical application of law and policy to improve health across the Nation. Each report also has success stories, or Bright Spots, that show how communities use laws and policies to meet their health goals and achieve Healthy People Oral Health targets.

This report presents evidence-based and promising law and policy solutions that community and tribal leaders, government officials, public health professionals, health care providers, lawyers, and social service providers can use in their own communities. These solutions focus on improving oral health care financing, strengthening the oral health workforce, and removing barriers to using oral health care services. Many of these solutions align with the Heathy People objective to increase the number of people who use the oral health care system.