(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblyman Democrats Gordon Johnson, Louis Greenwald, Benjie Wimberly and Gabriela Mosquera sponsored to promote and improve oral health in New Jersey, especially among young children was given final legislative approval by the Senate on Thursday. The bill was approved 38-0.
The bill (A-3314) would establish the Office of the State Dental Director in order to provide for a collaborative state effort to address oral health.
“Poor oral health can lead to so many other health problems, so it’s important that we as a state join in a collaborative effort to combat this problem,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “Hopefully these efforts will lead to better oral hygiene at a young age, putting our residents on a path to a lifetime of better overall health.”
“Research suggests that oral health mirrors our overall health,” said Assembly Majority Leader Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “Not only will this bill help improve public health throughout New Jersey, but it will also help address health care costs, which is one of many pressing economic issues facing our state.”
“Education is very important in the prevention of dental disease,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “For parents, information on early childhood care can help prevent harm to their infant’s teeth. An education program will help teach children and their parents proper brushing and flossing techniques along with good nutritional habits to build a lifetime of sound oral health.”
“Oral health is an integral part of overall health throughout your life,” said Mosquera (D-Camden, Gloucester). “Educating adults and children about various oral health topics, a state dental office will be charged with developing new programs and educational materials for adults.”
Under the bill, the State Dental Director will be appointed by the Governor in consultation with the New Jersey Dental Association, and will be a licensed dentist or dental hygienist who has practiced in New Jersey for at least 10 years. The director will be responsible for the same duties as would have been placed under the Center for Oral Health under the bill as introduced. The State Dental Director will be in charge of all dental health activities and programs that are in or overseen by the Department of Health, and the director or a designee will serve as an additional, ex officio member of the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry.
Additionally, the amendments establish the New Jersey Oral Health Commission in the Department of Health. The commission will be required to develop and promote recommendations for policies, events, and awareness campaigns to improve the condition of oral health in this State. The commission will comprise 15 members, including the State Dental Director, who will serve as chairperson of the commission; the Commissioners of Banking and Insurance, Children and Families, Education, and Human Services, or their designees, who shall serve ex officio; and 10 public members, to be appointed by the Governor upon the recommendations of groups representing various aspects of the health care and dental care industry.
The public members will serve for a term of five years, except that, of the 10 public members first appointed, the first three members appointed will serve for a term of three years, the second three members appointed will serve for a term of four years, and the next four members appointed will serve for a term of five years. A public member is eligible to be reappointed to the commission, and vacancies will be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.
Members of the commission will serve without compensation, but will be reimbursed for necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties. The commission will meet at least twice per calendar year, and at such other times as the chairperson designates. The Department of Health will provide staff services and other necessary support to the commission.
The measure passed 66-2. It was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee in February and the full Assembly on December 17.