CareQuest Institute CEO Testifies at Senate Committee Hearing on Dental Care Crisis in US

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May 16, 2024

Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA, Addressed the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) May 16, 2024

(Boston, MA) — Today, Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA, president and CEO of CareQuest Institute for Oral Health® — a leading national nonprofit focused on creating a more accessible, equitable, and integrated oral health system — testified before the Senate HELP Committee about dental care affordability and accessibility.

The Senate HELP Committee, led by Chairman Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ranking Member Senator Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA), convened a full hearing on the dental care crisis in America and how to make dental care more affordable and available to all.

“Our data show that nearly 70 million adults and nearly 8 million children in the United States do not have dental insurance,” said Minter-Jordan. “Unfortunately, dental coverage gaps have exacerbated a nationwide oral health crisis that forces many people to forgo critical dental care.

“We are grateful to Chairman Sanders, Ranking Member Cassidy, and all the committee members for holding this hearing on a critical issue that has been overlooked for far too long. While the situation is dire, policymakers are talking about these issues more than ever and taking steps toward change, and the momentum is encouraging,” she added. “It’s up to all of us to create a more accessible, equitable, and integrated health care system that includes oral health.”

 “In America today we have a dental crisis that we have got to address,” said Senator Sanders. “Dental care in America is way too expensive. We don't have enough dentists, dental hygienists, or dental therapists. Far too many Americans, especially in rural areas, do not have access to a dentist, which forces them to either travel long distances or go without the care they need. Very few dentists accept Medicaid preventing the most vulnerable people in America from getting the dental procedures they need. And there is a major lack of transparency in the prices dentists charge. The results have been tragic: One out of five seniors in our country are missing all of their natural teeth. Over 40% of children in America have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten. And about half of Americans with dental insurance skip getting the dental care they need because they cannot afford it. That is unacceptable and has got to change.”

“People don’t experience health issues in isolation. A person with a cavity could have substance use disorder or heart disease, yet need to schedule multiple appointments with multiple providers. When we fail to provide people holistic health care – including primary, visual and dental – in an accessible way, community health can decay. Strengthening the enamel of our health care system requires that we support and invest in integrated care. I am proud that Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan is a leader in the fight for health justice from Massachusetts to Capitol Hill,” said Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

The hearing is in response to the millions of people across the country who cannot access the oral health care they need — most often because they cannot afford it. In fact, dental care is the number one medical service skipped due to cost, even more than prescription drugs. Nearly 70 million adults and nearly 8 million children in the United States do not have dental insurance.

Oral health has significant impacts on overall health and well-being. Hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and adverse birth outcomes are all correlated with oral health.

Dental disease can also threaten family financial stability; it can keep children home from school and adults from being able to work.

Findings from CareQuest Institute’s annual State of Oral Health Equity survey — the largest nationally representative survey focused exclusively on adults’ knowledge, attitudes, experiences, and behaviors related to oral health — and other sources show that the dental care crisis is widespread. It disproportionately impacts low-income individuals, older adults, people living with disabilities, people in rural communities, and racial and ethnic minorities.

For example:

  • When people from lower-income families can access dental care, they pay over seven times more out-of-pocket for their dental care than higher-income families.
  • One in five adults aged 65 years or older have untreated tooth decay and about 2 in 3 (68%) have gum disease.
  • Four in 10 adults in rural areas have not seen a dentist for over a year, which is about 10% higher than in urban and suburban areas.
  • The prevalence of early childhood tooth decay in American Indian and Alaska Native communities is three times higher than it is for white children.
  • Black and Hispanic adults report that they have never been to a dentist at more than twice the rate of white adults.

Lisa Simon, MD, DMD, associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and member of the faculty at Harvard Medical School; Brian Jeffrey Swann, DMD, MPH, board of directors of Remote Area Medical (RAM) and co-chair of Global Oral Health Outreach at the National Dental Association; and Gordon Roswell Isbell, III, DMD, MAGD, past trustee of the Academy of General Dentistry also testified at the hearing, highlighting similar troubling statistics and realities.


Direct Media Inquiries to:
Sara Ward


About CareQuest Institute for Oral Health®
CareQuest Institute for Oral Health® is a national nonprofit championing a more equitable future where every person can reach their full potential through excellent health. We do this through our work in philanthropy, analytics and data insights, health transformation, policy and advocacy, and education as well as our leadership in dental benefits and innovation advancements. We collaborate with thought leaders, health care providers, patients, and local, state, and federal stakeholders, to accelerate oral health care transformation and create a system designed for everyone. To learn more, visit and follow us on TwitterLinkedInFacebook, and Instagram.

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