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My View: The value of the ADA – Organized dentistry’s public works

By Bracken Kilpatrick

July 7, 2023

A question I regularly hear is, “What’s the value of being a member of the ADA?” Some see more tangible value of membership in local and state organizations than in the national organization. While there are many reasons why the American Dental Association is valuable to our nation’s dentists, I believe it is important to point out some of the less obvious values. Like road, electrical, water, and sewage systems help ensure stable communities, the ADA provides important infrastructure that sustains and enhances the work of state dental associations, local dental societies, and your practice.

Here are a few examples:

  • The ADA fully funds the cost of association management software for the entire tripartite. Association management software is the lifeblood of any membership organization, reducing the time and expense of creating and maintaining data for membership, accounting, governance, and events. The fact that almost every state dental association and local dental society uses the same association management software enables better collaboration. By covering the costs of a consistent association management software for the entire tripartite, the ADA collectively saves dental organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
  • The ADA significantly reduces the cost of knowing what activities are occurring in locations outside of your own jurisdiction. For example, take the hypothetical case of a local dental society working with a rural city to install the new water fluoridation tablet feeder system that needs to quickly get technical guidance. Thankfully, the ADA is able to quickly connect a component with needed resources because they constantly monitor water fluoridation activities across the country. Tripartite organizations routinely access ADA resources because it’s cheaper, less time-consuming, and more effective than building and maintaining that knowledge in-house.
  • The ADA invests in being a respected thought leader that furthers the practice of dentistry and makes our society healthier. Two ADA entities that everyone should know about are the ADA’s Health Policy Institute and Science & Research Institute. These entities provide valuable data that helps us be better advocates and drives innovation in dental materials and other areas. HPI and ADASRI help shape the future practice of dentistry and innovative public policy that supports the delivery of optimal care.
  • The ADA is also a great aggregator of best practices and distributor of useful toolkits across organized dentistry. Recently, my organization has used ADA toolkits on membership recruitment and retention, in-office dental plans and minimum loss ratio legislation. These are valuable resources that provide proven information that can be modified to state specifications, if necessary, once again saving us time and money.

Think about how the quality of life in your hometown would deteriorate if everyone had to build and maintain their own roads, utilities, water and sewage systems. The collective value of your community’s public works is the same value the ADA provides for the entire tripartite. Providing these infrastructure services is often thankless and only becomes front of mind when these systems are not working properly.

In recent years, the ADA has increased its efforts to better collaborate with state and local organizations to improve the ADA-maintained organizational infrastructure. I am thoroughly impressed by this recent work, especially in comparison to the state of our collective infrastructure in 2006, my first year at the Washington State Dental Association.

The ADA is a valuable partner to you and your dental practice. As we work together for the good of your patients and profession, it’s important to remember that the ADA makes this work more feasible, more efficient, and more effective.

A version of this editorial, reprinted with permission, first appeared in the April 2023 of the WSDA News. Mr. Killpack is the executive director of the Washington State Dental Association. Copyright © 2023 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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