IOM Committee on an Oral Health Initiative
Statement of Task

•   Assess the current oral health care system for the entire U.S. population.

•   Examine preventive oral care interventions, their use and promotion.

•   Explore ways of improving health literacy for oral health.

•   Review elements of a potential HHS oral health initiative, including possible or current regulations, statutes, programs, research, data, financing, and policy.

•   Recommend strategic actions for HHS agencies and, if relevant and important, other actors, as well as ways to evaluate this initiative.


of the problems that exist in the oral health care system. Instead, this report should be viewed as a complementary piece of a larger solution that will require efforts throughout the oral health community and beyond. This report therefore uses the term oral health in its most comprehensive sense—as the responsibility of the entire health care system.

Several major developments during the course of this study challenged the committee. In particular, after the project had already begun, HHS announced the launch of the Oral Health Initiative 2010 (OHI 2010), a cross-agency effort to improve coordination within HHS toward improving the oral health of the nation. HHS considers this current IOM study as part of the initiative. The committee decided to acknowledge the OHI 2010 but not to let its current structure limit their recommendations.


In recent decades, advances in oral health science broadened understanding not just of healthy teeth but of the health of the entire craniofacial-oral-dental complex and its relation to overall health. Scientifically, we have moved into a postgenomic era and expanded our understanding of oral conditions to also include their often complex, multigene, and hereditary bases. Despite these advances, Oral Health in America identified dental caries1 as “the single most common chronic childhood disease.” While


1 The term dental caries is used in the singular and refers to the disease commonly known as tooth decay.

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