Closing Pitch: An Advocate for Little Teeth

On a vital mission to ensure all children receive optimal oral health care, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s (AAPD) Chief Executive Officer John Rutkauskas, DDS, MBA, CAE, leads his team  on ways to secure access to quality oral health care for young patients.

Armed with a wealth of experience and interest in public policy, federally funded dental programs, residency training, and clinical care guidelines and policies, Rutkauskas has been instrumental in positioning the AAPD as “America’s Pediatric Dentists, The Big Authority on Little Teeth” — the go-to resource on oral health for parents and pediatric dentists.

His past experience as president of the National Health Alliance for Oral Health, and executive director of the Federation of Special Care Organizations in Dentistry, prepared him for the challenge to help close the gap between vulnerable populations and access to oral health services. He works closely with legislators, health care professionals and associations to decide how to bring, and keep, pediatric oral health at the forefront of the health care debate.

Rutkauskas took some time to chat with Mentor about the academy‘s work and its future efforts.

How has the AAPD made an impact on pediatric oral health these past few years?
The vision of the AAPD’s is very clear — optimal oral health for all children. As such, everything we do is predicated on what‘s best for children. We have expended a great deal of our time in the legislative arena to be certain that programming like the Children’s Health Insurance Program be reauthorized, Medicaid is funded adequately, and our clinical care best practices and guidelines are the best they can be as our membership meets the vision of the organization.

Our philanthropic arm — Healthy Smiles, Healthy Children — has given away nearly $5 million since 2010 to help establish dental homes for more than 320,000 children nationally. We are truly committed to the nation‘s children that we have been privileged to serve.

What are some key issues that the AAPD will need to advocate for over the next few years?

Safety has become an enormous issue within the AAPD as it has in other health care arenas. We are actively evaluating every aspect of pediatric dental practice so that we can continue to maintain a warm, safe child-centric practice at the highest level.

We will also continue to advocate for ongoing developments in dental practice delivery systems that improve the outcomes of care for children incorporating dental quality measures in every day practice as well as continuing to develop evidence-based guidelines to deliver the highest possible care chairside.

How can dental sales professionals get involved with the AAPD to help strengthen the voice of pediatric patients?

The AAPD welcomes working with corporate partners to deliver the best, most efficacious products that our 10,000 plus members can apply to meeting our goals of optimal oral health for all children. I would encourage all those in the dental marketplace who have a commitment to children to join in our foundation‘s efforts to meeting our goal of establishing dental homes to 1 million children by the year 2022.

What are some of the academy’s recent research projects exploring ways to improve oral health in children?

The AAPD annually updates it research agenda to recognize the contemporary priorities of scientific evidence and knowledge for the advancement of our specialty. The current agenda includes prevention and management of dental caries, interdisciplinary research to understand and eliminate oral health disparities and translational research to move science into practice and policy.

What’s ahead for pediatric dentistry?

Our strategic plan for 2020 focuses on five objectives including clinical expertise, patient care and access, workforce and practice transformation, advocacy and operations. Each of these five critical objectives captures what we believe are current drivers of need and growth within the AAPD, including investing in dental training and education, addressing barriers of care, providing for leadership skills development, solution-based education of policy makers and providing for efficient governance systems. We are vested in development of our members to deliver the highest care possible to their patients.

What keeps you awake at night?

want to continue working hard in meeting the needs of our very committed and dedicated membership. Only with a strong membership can we collectively continue to deliver the highest level of care to our nation’s children.

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