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The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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DHMH Press Releases : state oral health plan



Department of Health & Mental Hygiene News Release

Baltimore, MD (May 17, 2011) - Officials from the Maryland Dental Action Coalition (MDAC), Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), and United States Congressman, Elijah E. Cummings today launched Maryland's first statewide Oral Health Plan at a Baltimore press conference.

"This Plan is an important step in continuing the forward momentum that has become the standard for improved oral health throughout Maryland," said, Beth Lowe, B.S.D.H., and M.P.H., Chair of MDAC. "The Plan provides a blueprint we all can follow to insure that Maryland remains a national leader in improving the oral health of its citizens."

The Oral Health Plan outlines a vision of improved oral health for all Marylanders by focusing on three key areas: Access to Oral Health Care, Oral Disease and Injury Prevention and Oral Health Literacy and Education. In each of these three areas, specific goals, objectives and activities are outlined so that the public as well as professionals can develop better oral health behaviors and practice standards within the five-year span of the plan (2011-2015).

"There is an old saying that our greatest wealth is our health," said Congressman Elijah E. Cummings. "I could not agree with this more. For so many in our state, and in our nation, healthcare is not a political issue, but a constant struggle. Dental care, like so many aspects of healthcare for those left in the shadows of our society, is often forgotten in this struggle. I refuse to let that continue. In Maryland, we have fought for better dental care, better pediatric dentistry coverage and creating a wider array of services that are open to a greater number of people than ever before. This Oral Health Plan expands those efforts, ensuring that Marylanders will continue to see the benefits of dental care."

Oral health is a critical component of over all health and poor oral health is linked to a number of serious diseases. Tooth decay remains the single most common childhood disease nationwide, yet tooth decay is nearly 100% preventable. Most oral health diseases can be prevented and/or treated through a combination of individual, community and professional strategies.

"Maryland is committed to further progress in oral health across the state," said DHMH Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D. "I appreciate the work of the Maryland Dental Action Coalition in putting forward these bold ideas for the future."

Maryland has made great strides in improving oral health in the last decade. Since the untimely death of 12-year old Deamonte Driver in 2007 from an untreated tooth infection that spread to his brain, Maryland has increased access to care for Maryland's children by 28 percent, and increased the number of dental providers participating in the Maryland Medicaid Program by 41 percent. The state is also putting a $1.2 million federal grant to work to develop and implement an Oral Health Literacy Campaign that will reach Maryland families with a unified message to empower them to establish healthy oral health behaviors and access care. Maryland's new five year Plan will continue to insure that improved access to oral health care remains a priority well into the future.

The Oral Health Plan is a living document that will be continually reviewed and modified as needed. Its development, lead by MDAC, involved many key individuals working in state and local government health care agencies, academic institutions, professional dental organizations, private practice, community-based programs, the insurance industry, and advocacy groups, as well as other important stakeholders and organizations.

MDAC is an independent, broad-based statewide coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to improving the oral health of all Marylanders through increased prevention, education, advocacy, and access to oral health care.

For more information, contact Penny Anderson, MDAC Executive Director at 410-884-8294 or email: To review the Oral Health Plan and learn more about oral health, visit

Maryland Oral Health Plan