MDA Grassroots Advocacy

mississippi-state-capital-jacksonThe Mississippi Dental Association actively advocates on local issues of concern to the dental profession at the Mississippi State Legislature.

The MDA strives to build and maintain effective working relationships with all of our elected state leaders and representatives. Our grassroots contact dentists are vital to the process and ultimate goal of making the voice of our dentist professional group heard by those who make the laws that govern the profession.

What is a Dental Mid-level Provider?

In some areas of our country, individuals with a lot less education and training are allowed to provide dental treatment to individuals that need oral health care. The Mississippi Dental Association opposes dental mid-level providers and the idea that an individual with less training providing dental care is an optimal solution for our patients who have difficulty obtaining dental care.

The reality is that our government programs that assist with oral health care provision need to be better funded. Also, more programs need to cover adult dental care. Those are two areas that the MDA works to improve to insure that all Mississippians have access to quality oral health care.

The key to a healthy mouth starts at birth. Regular visits to a dentist help you take good care of your teeth and can prevent expensive treatment due to dental disease. A dentist is trained to provide you the best care and to help you have a healthy mouth throughout your lifetime.

Grassroots Advocacy FAQ

Why is grassroots advocacy important to dentistry?

State government plays a vital role in setting guidelines for how you run your practice on a daily basis and how your dental patients receive care.  From taxation and regulation to scope of practice and licensing, the Mississippi Legislature makes decisions affecting every aspect of the dental profession and our patients.

Cultivating a grassroots presence for dentistry in every legislative district is key. The more involved you are at home with your local politicians and their campaigns, the more influence dentistry gains at the legislative level.

How many dental related issues could possibly be decided by state officials?

Every legislative session hundreds of bills contain the words dental, oral health, or other terms relating to the practice of dentistry. The Mississippi Legislature decides everything from license renewal fees and continuing education hours to Medicaid reimbursement rates and taxation. Ninety percent of everything related to the  practice of dentistry in the state of Mississippi is governed by the Mississippi Legislature.

What are the legislative issues facing Mississippi dentists?

Issues facing Mississippi dentists vary from session to session. However there are a few we can expect to arise every or most legislative years. These include:

1) Changes in Dental Workforce - The Introduction of Dental Mid-level Providers and/or Unsupervised Practice for Dental Hygienists and Denturism
MDA has successfully opposed and continues to work against legislation that allows dental team members to practice without supervision in certain settings prior to the patient being examined by a dentist. Within the past few months we have also learned that some outside groups are seeking to introduce a dental mid-level provider (an individual with less training than a dentist who ​is allowed to do many of the procedures that dentists do) in our state to address oral health care provision disparities. Finally, for many years the MDA has been successful in preventing the legalization of denturism (the practice of someone without a dental degree taking impressions, constructing and delivering dentures) in our state. 

2) Taxation on Dental Practices or Services

MDA continues to oppose any tax, such as a sales tax on dental services, which would increase the cost of dental care and discourage access.  If state fees are increased, the increase should be spread equally across all professions.

MDA agrees that the dental profession benefits from a well-educated workforce and patient population, and  supports a strong public education system.   At the same time, the impact of business taxation on dental practices must be minimal and not interrupt access to care. 

3) Dental Insurance – Preferred Provider Organizations
Thanks to MDA’s advocacy, Mississippi has a unique law requiring state-regulated dental plans to pay both network and non-network dentists at the same rate. That is what we call “Freedom of Choice” in our state.       

MDA will continually monitors potential changes to the insurance legislation and advocates for fair business practices.

4) Government Programs—Medicaid, CHIP and MississippiCAN
For many years MDA has advocated fair reimbursement levels in Medicaid and CHIP. Low reimbursement rates and administrative hassles discourage many Mississippi dentists from    participating in these programs.
That is why the MDA continually lobbies to improve different aspects of these programs, to help dentists serve as providers and to meet the need of those who are eligible and in need of oral health care.  

What is a lobbyist and what do they do for us?

A lobbyist is someone who works for a special interest group and who builds relationships with legislators and tries to persuade legislators to vote for bills that are favored by that group against bills not favored, and amend bills which affect dental patients and dentists. The Mississippi Dental Association has a lobby team of outside legislative consultants who report to the MDA President, MDA Executive Director and the Chair of the MDA  Council on Governmental Affairs. 

This team lobbies for dental issues during the legislative session and presents legislative candidate evaluations to determine campaign contributions during the campaign season. These individuals are an essential part of the MDA legislative team.


How can I learn more about politics in Mississippi?

The MDA has complied an easy reference for our dentists to review and learn more about the legislative process in our state. Mississippi Politics 101 is designed to help every dentist become more familiar with our political system and also to become more comfortable with advocacy work.

At the MDA we know that our dentists are the "experts" on oral health care and should be the ones helping our legislators to better understand why some laws are good or bad for the public when it comes to oral health care. All dentists should be involved in the important work of advocacy for oral health and the profession of dentistry.   

How can I get involved?

There are many ways you can help protect your profession and advocate alongside the MDA:

1. Vote! 
Voting is more than a right, it's a way for your voice to be heard.

2. Develop a relationship with your legislator.
Most elected officials want to know as many of their constituents as possible. You can develop a relationship with your legislator by volunteering for their political campaign, hosting a private fundraiser in your home or office, or inviting them as a special guest to public functions such as dental society meetings, building dedications, groundbreakings, and charity events.

Once you have developed a relationship with your legislator, consider becoming a contact dentist for the MDA!

3.Become a contact dentist

A key contact dentist is an individual who is committed to the advancement of MDA issues and who serves as a liaison to one or more elected or appointed policymakers.

The Mississippi Dental Association needs you to serve as a key contact to Mississippi’s state officials. Do you know the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, a legislator and/or a sate official? If so, let us know and, if not, let us help you build a relationship with the legislators in your district!

4. Donate to MDPAC
MDPAC exists to advocate for the positions of the MDA on all types of legislation and to ensure that the Mississippi Dental Association is a constant presence at our state capitol. MDPAC allows dentists to pool their individual contributions together in order to make substantial contributions to the campaigns of key pro-dentistry legislators who are in a position to influence the issues that affect dental patients and practices.

One hundred percent of your MDPAC dollars go to candidates seeking state office. It is essential that we help elect responsive candidates who understand the important role dental health plays in our communities. Working together we can protect our patients and ensure that dentistry is practiced the way we know it should be. These campaign contributions provide an excellent opportunity to establish relationships with legislators.

You can learn more about donating to MDPAC here.

5. Participate in MDPAC events
Participate in events related to MDPAC such as our annual Oral Health Day at the Capitol. Your participation is welcomed and very important!