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What Is the American Dental Association?

By Becky Dobyns

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The American Dental Association (ADA) was founded in 1859 to promote oral health and access to dental care for all Americans. A not-for-profit organization, it is widely respected as the oldest and largest dentistry organization in the world.

The ADA now includes over 163,000 dentists across all 50 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Purpose of the American Dental Association

According to their official website, the organization exists "to empower the profession of dentistry and to assist [its] members in advancing the overall oral health of their patients."

In the rapidly-changing world of dentistry, the American Dental Association aims to supply its members with everything they need to take care of their patients with the most advanced, up-to-date available.

Why Dentists Join the ADA

Dentists become members of this prestigious group because of its longstanding reputation and emphasis on professional development. In addition, dentists receive the following benefits:

  • Advocating as a group for dental care reform
  • Help with questions about insurance benefits and dental procedure coding
  • Student loan assistance (we tend to think our dentists are rolling in cash - but many of them are small business owners with narrower profit margins than we'd expect)

Giving Back: The ADA Foundation

The American Dental Association lives out its mission and values partially through the ADA Foundation, the charitable arm of the organization. The foundation provides grants for dental research, access to care for those in need, and educational opportunities for motivated or financially disadvantaged students, and relief grants for dentists and their families in dire need because of illness, injury or other catastrophic conditions.

One of the organization's most well-known programs is Give Kids a Smile, which has provided free oral health services for over 5.5 million underserved children since 2003.

Other American Dental Association Programs

Action for Dental Health Map

Many Americans do not have access to affordable dental care. In fact, some would consider the United States to be in the midst of a dental health crisis, with many Americans skipping dental visits due to a lack of access to affordable care. Action for Dental Health aims to help provide immediate care to the untreated, expand the safety net for all Americans and help advance prevention and education initiatives.

The ADA Seal of Acceptance

Not all dental care products are created equal. Before buying, you can check for the ADA Seal of Acceptance to ensure that its claims are backed up scientifically.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation

This is the national accrediting body for dental, advanced dental and allied education programs in the United States.

American Dental Association Resources

New Dentists Blog

The American Dental Association provides dentists with many resources to help their practice. One great example is their blog for new dentists that helps them establish their practice and understand how to best help their patients. Dental patients may also benefit from reading a few articles to better understand their dentist's point of view.

New dentists deal with many of the same challenges as other professionals, including introducing new tools and techniques they learned at dental school at an old practice that has "always done things this way."

They also wrestle with ethical questions such as whether to take care of the patient's desires or whether to insist on taking care of what they believe the patient truly needs, based on their professional opinion.

This is the American Dental Association's consumer-oriented arm, focused on educating the public about oral health and dental care. You may see articles from MouthHealthy when searching online for dental care tips.

Find-a-Dentist Tool

Would you like to know exactly where to find an ADA member dentist near you? Just check the Find-a-Dentist Tool.

The Journal of the American Dental Association, the ADA News and the ADA Guide to Dental Therapeutics. These publications keep all members informed of research and developments in the field.

Why Choose an ADA Member Dentist?

Choosing a dentist in the American Dental Association is not necessary, but it can be a good indicator of their integrity and dedication to their field.

When dentists join the ADA, they receive access to some of the latest resources in the field of dentistry. They also agree to follow the ADA Principles of the Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct, in which they make the following pledges:

  • Respect a patient's wants and needs. Sometimes your dentist's desires and opinions may differ from your own. An ADA dentist is committing to respect your wishes with treatment decisions.
  • Find a Dentist in Your Area

  • Do no harm. Contrary to popular belief, this statement is actually not in the Hippocratic Oath that many doctors sign. It is, however, in the ADA's code of conduct.
  • Do good.
  • Be fair.
  • Be truthful.

Everyone can be a bit hesitant when choosing a new dentist, so finding one in the ADA is just one indicator to help put your mind at ease. Read more tips for choosing a dentist that is both trustworthy and affordable.

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