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Ohio Dental Association dentists have a long history of working to improve access to dental care

by ODA Staff
3/17/2016
ODA Today

In February of 1941, the first Children's Dental Health Day in America was held in Cleveland to draw attention to the importance of dental health for children.

Ohio dentists have a long history of working for the underserved. From the early days of the association through today, the ODA and its members have demonstrated a commitment to Ohio’s citizens. A recent independent survey shows that ODA members provide a total of more than $40 million in donated care to underserved Ohioans annually.

In February of 1941, the first Children’s Dental Health Day in America was held in Cleveland, and a week-long children’s dental health event was held in Akron that same year. These events were designed to draw attention to the importance of dental health for children. Following the example set in Cleveland and Akron, the American Dental Association held the first national observance of Children’s Dental Health Day on Feb. 8, 1949 and it became a weeklong event in 1955. Today, the ADA recognizes February as National Children’s Dental Health Month.

When scientific evidence in the first half of the last century suggested that fluoride in drinking water prevents tooth decay, organized dentistry responded. In 1950, the ADA passed a resolution encouraging water fluoridation and over the next two decades, the ODA and local Ohio dental societies advocated to fluoridate water systems across Ohio. In 1969, the ODA successfully lobbied to have the state legislature enact a law requiring most municipalities to fluoridate their water systems unless they opted out via a local ballot issue. Today, because of the efforts of the ODA, more than 90 percent of Ohioans live in communities with fluoridated water systems, which is well above the national average of 74 percent. Because of its positive impact on oral health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared that water fluoridation is one of the top 10 greatest public health achievements of the 20th Century.

In 1995, the leaders of the ODA saw the need to create a philanthropic arm, so they created the Ohio Dental Association Foundation as an independent non-profit charitable organization. Through the generous support of the member dentists, the ODA Foundation has awarded grants to more than 60 worthy programs that provide access to dental care to the underserved. The ODA Foundation has also awarded hundreds of scholarships to students in dental school and in dental assisting and hygiene programs. In fact, this year as the ODA celebrates its 150th anniversary, the ODA Foundation will surpass the mark of awarding one million dollars in grants and scholarships – demonstrating the profession’s commitment to the underserved in Ohio and the future of dentistry.

ODA members also demonstrate their commitment to the underserved by directly providing much needed dental care. Through the Give Kids A Smile program, ODA member dentists provide nearly a million dollars in free care to underserved children every year.

Member dentists also provide care to underserved adults through Dental OPTIONS, a program provided through a joint partnership between the ODA and the Ohio Department of Health that helps eligible, low-income uninsured adults in Ohio obtain access to dental care by linking them with volunteer dentists. Since 1997, OPTIONS dentists have provide more than $21 million in discounted and donated care.