Bill recognizing dentists as emergency responders moves forward

A bill that would incorporate dentistry into the federal disaster response framework has unanimously passed the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI), the Dental Emergency Responder Act (HR 903), the ADA has for several years lobbied Congress vigorously to pass the bill.

"The vote recognizes the important role dentists have played and can continue to play in the event of national disasters," said ADA President Ron Tankersley, D.D.S., in a press release. "Many federal, state, and local officials don't realize that medical evaluation and triage are important aspects of dentists' professional education."

Following the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon, dentists were among the first to triage and treat the wounded, he added. "They played a critical role in saving lives."

Passing this bill into law would dramatically increase the number of health professionals able to respond to an emergency, the ADA said.

The Dental Responder Enhancement Act would:

  • Incorporate dentists and allied dental personnel into the federal definitions of "public health worker" and "emergency response provider."
  • Incorporate dentists into the National Health Security Strategy and the operational plan for the National Incident Management System.
  • Clarify that dental schools are eligible to apply for public health and medical response training grants under the federal Centers for Public Health Preparedness program.
  • Encourage the Department of Homeland Security's chief medical officer to engage the dental community when addressing medical and public health preparedness issues.

The bill will move to the full House for a vote after the August recess. The Senate has yet to take up the issue.

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