Chair of the ADEA Board of Directors Highlights Oral Health “Paradox”

March 4, 2021— Oral health is an essential component of overall health, but that outlook is not widely put into practice, according to the Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), who says the paradox diminishes the influence of oral health professionals in the health care community.

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Writing in the March edition of ADEA’s Journal of Dental Education, Ryan Quock, D.D.S., highlighted a disconnect between a philosophical embrace of oral health as essential and health delivery models that do not honor that recognition. Dr. Quock, a Distinguished Teaching Professor with the Department of Restorative Dentistry & Prosthodontics at the University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston, pointed to the list of 10 essential health benefits as defined in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

While pediatric oral care is listed as an essential benefit in the ACA Marketplace, oral care for adults is not. Additionally, Dr. Quock noted that most medical insurance plans do not include dental coverage, which is instead purchased separately as a limited benefit.

“It is my opinion that reconciling the oral health paradox (making oral health essential in both philosophy and practice) is the fundamental existential challenge on which our professional future depends,” Dr. Quock wrote in his guest editorial, “Are We Essential? The Oral Health Paradox.”

Dr. Quock called on dental educators to speak about this disconnect and advocate for change.

Why should the dental education community care?” he wrote. “The implications of oral health not truly being considered essential are current and obvious. At a high level, it diminishes our voice at the table in all arenas (health care, higher education, policy). Closer to home, there is the ongoing demand on dental education units to justify their existence and budget to their parent institutions. And especially in the era of COVID, it affects access to vital relief funding and personal protective equipment. In short, if oral health isn’t practically considered essential, then dental education’s footing is not so firm.”

Advocating for oral health care as a crucial part of an integrated health system has long been a focus of ADEA.

ADEA President and CEO Karen West, D.M.D., M.P.H., said the COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored the vital role that oral health professionals play in overall well-being, pointing to the fact that more than 18 states have authorized dentists to administer vaccines.

“This sustained global focus we’ve had on health care during the pandemic has given us an opportunity to reframe a broader conversation about health care, emphasizing how oral health care is part and parcel of overall well-being,” Dr. West said. “We have to keep making that point at every opportunity.”

As the sole national organization representing academic dentistry, ADEA is The Voice of Dental Education. ADEA members include all 78 U.S. and Canadian dental schools, more than 800 allied and advanced dental education programs, more than 50 corporations and approximately 18,000 individuals. ADEA provides its members access to exclusive information and resources, as well as multiple leadership and professional development opportunities.


About ADEA: The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is The Voice of Dental Education. Our mission is to lead and support the health professions community in preparing future-ready oral health professionals. Our members include all 79 accredited U.S. and Canadian dental schools, more than 800 allied and advanced dental education programs, more than 50 corporations and approximately 15,000 individuals. Our activities encompass a wide range of research, advocacy, faculty development, meetings and communications, including the esteemed Journal of Dental Education®, as well as the dental school application services ADEA AADSAS®, ADEA PASS®, ADEA DHCAS® and ADEA CAAPID®