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My View: The value of the ADA Foundation

November 16, 2015

By Drs. Rickland Asai, Terry Buckenheimer, Gary Jeffers and Gary Yonemoto

One of the great privileges of being an ADA Trustee is learning about the many ways in which the ADA and its related entities serve our profession and our patients. Many of our councils, committees and subcommittees are prominent and well-known to most ADA members; one related organization that is less well-known is the ADA Foundation.

Four ADA Trustees serve on the on the ADAF Board of Directors, and we have been appointed to serve in that capacity. Collectively we have served 10 years in that role. As a result, we have learned that the ADAF is an important and valuable component of “the ADA enterprise.” Although the ADAF may not be well known, it does many wonderful things on our behalf — not just for members, but for our patients and for the public.

ADAF and ADA Guiding Principles — There is a strong organizational connection between the ADAF and the ADA, as identified in the ADA Constitution, its Core Values, its Strategic Plan, its Action for Dental Health, and its efforts to build strong ties with dental students. For example:
  • Article II of the ADA Constitution states that: “The object of this Association shall be to encourage the improvement of the health of the public and to promote the art and science of dentistry.”
  • The ADA Core Values Statement includes three items which ADAF programs support, including:
    • Commitment to members.
    • Commitment to improving oral health.
    • Science and evidence-based.
  • The ADA Strategic Plan “Helping All Members Succeed” includes objective 1.3: Promote oral health through advocacy and science.
  • The ADA Action for Dental Health campaign addresses dental health in three areas:
    • Provide care now to people who are suffering from untreated disease.
    • Strengthen and expand the public/private safety net.
    • Disease prevention and dental health education.
The work of the ADAF is supportive of those principles, and the staff and volunteers of the ADAF work diligently to help the ADA meet those aspirations.

ADAF charitable assistance grants for financial aid and disaster relief help ADA members and other dentists deal with financial challenges, showing a commitment to members.

Annually, ADAF Give Kids A Smile events at 1,500 locations nationwide provide education and care for approximately 350,000 kids with the help of 30,000 volunteers, including 10,000 dentists. Disease prevention and education are major components of GKAS. The ADAF’s Samuel J. Harris Grants help volunteers educate new mothers about infant and early childhood oral care, while Semi-Annual Education Grants educate others about general oral care.

In 2014 the ADAF received 341 applications for grant support and made 164 awards totaling more than $1,336,000 to individuals or organizations. By Sept. 1, the ADAF had already received 475 applications.

The ADAF also helps the ADA reach dental students — the key to future growth of the ADA. The ADAF Tarrson and Zwemer Awards recognize the volunteer efforts of about 500 dental students each year, as well as the work of students who organize Give Kids A Smile events. In the past five years 56 dental schools have conducted GKAS events, each involving as many as 100 students.

The ADAF offers scholarships for dental students from every dental school in the country. Every dental school in the U.S. and Canada is invited to send one student to our annual Dental Student Conference on Research.

The scientific advances made at the ADA Foundation Dr. Anthony Volpe Research Center (previously the Paffenbarger Research Center) have changed the nature of dentistry. High-speed hand pieces, panoramic X-ray machines, improved composites and bonding materials were all developed there.

Current programs at the VRC include research on new dental monomers, bonding adhesives, fluoride delivery vehicles, biomaterials/biomineralization, caries-prevention methodologies, hard tissue repair/replacement materials, tooth remineralization tools, nanomaterials/bio-scaffolds and continued work on standard reference materials.

In 2013 the VRC received a major grant from the National Institutes of Health addressing bioactive smart composites. The program, “Novel Dental Resin Composites with Improved Service Life,” involves new chemistry leading to dental monomers that will be resistant to hydrolytic and enzymatic degradation. The goals are to develop composites with a “self-healing” capability, resulting in autonomous crack repair; and to establish antimicrobial action, resulting in resistance to biofilm formation.

As ADA Trustees, we represent the interests of the membership at large, working to ensure that what the ADA and its related entities do is beneficial for its members, dentistry generally and the public. Because of our involvement on the ADAF board, and our interaction with the staff, we understand that the ADAF is an important and necessary component of the ADA’s efforts.

We also know that the funds provided to the ADAF from the ADA are prudent investments. The ADAF is well-managed, with sound financial systems — ADAF audits since 2011 have been impeccably clean, earning praise from the outside auditors. The staff is professional, enthusiastic and committed to the fulfillment of the ADAF mission.

Our message to all ADA members is that the ADA Foundation is a valuable resource for us as we strive to achieve our goals helping members as they help their patients. As ADA Trustees working on your behalf, we can assure you that the ADA Foundation is an important aspect of the maintenance and enhancement of the dental profession. The ADA Foundation is an organization in which we should all take great pride. We hope that you will join us in making a personal contribution to the ADA Foundation to help continue that good work. You can make your contribution, and learn much more about the ADA Foundation by visiting ADAFoundation.org.

Drs. Asai, Buckenheimer and Jeffers are current members of the ADA Board of Trustees, and Dr. Yonemoto is a former board member. They wrote this editorial for the ADA News.