Cieanna Lindoerfer, 5, of West Bend, Wis., opens wide as Holly Koehn inspects her teeth at the Riverfront Dentist in Barton on Feb. 1, 2013. Members of the Riverfront Dentist helped give 12 children from Head Start free dental work as part of the program Give Kids a Smile. (John Ehlke/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The July 2 front-page article “Dental lobby bares teeth on care laws” presented a narrow view of dentistry and distorted the critical role dentists play in defining and responding to oral health-care issues in the United States.

The American Dental Association has long been influential in shaping health-care policy in Washington and the states, advocating for proven, data-driven solutions that have an immediate and measurable impact on patients.

Missing was the staggering amount of time and resources dentists devote to public-health programs, such as advocating for increased funding for dental services under Medicaid, expanding water fluoridation to help prevent tooth decay and redirecting patients from the emergency room to the dentist chair.

Also absent was the mention of nearly $2 billion in free care dentists donate annually at charitable events such as Mission of Mercy and Give Kids a Smile, along with uncompensated patient care provided in dental offices.

The article also examined dental therapist models. Though well intentioned, those programs have produced unimpressive results and in most cases failed to significantly reduce decay rates or lower the cost of care.

A better option is to focus limited resources on programs that we know improve patient care such as those in the Action for Dental Health bill now in Congress.

The ADA believes every person deserves access to quality health care. We will continue to use our influence to advocate for programs we believe will achieve that goal.

Gary L. Roberts, Chicago

The writer is president

of the American Dental Association.