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ADA poised to help dentists adjust to changing landscape


Dr. Faiella

Dr. Norman

Dr. Israelson
Research evaluating the state of the dental profession shows a lot is changing and will change in the coming years, but the ADA already has measures and programs in place to help dentists adapt and thrive in a new environment.

An environmental scan of the dental care sector showed Americans are visiting the dentist less frequently and spending less money on their oral health. Dentistry has also recently experienced important structural changes that are unrelated to the economic downturn or slow recovery, and they're ones that have been happening for years. The scan includes research from the ADA Health Policy Resources Center and Diringer and Associates, an independent consulting firm, and other experts asked to help the ADA Board of Trustees' Strategic Planning Steering Committee develop a strategic plan for 2015-20, titled Members First 2020.

"Dentists have probably already noticed changes in managing their business systems, patient habits and their interactions with insurance companies," said Dr. Robert Faiella, ADA president. "It's been a tough adjustment for all of us, but there are some silver linings to this new reality and ways for dentists to utilize their Association to thrive in this new environment."

This fall, the ADA launched the Center for Professional Success, a one-stop shop website for dentists who are seeking resources that will help them succeed as dental practitioners and small business owners. This new ADA member benefit, located at Success.ADA.org, helps dentists find solutions to professional and personal challenges and includes everything from tips for choosing a career path to balancing personal and professional lives to planning for retirement.

The Center is aimed at helping dentists be more efficient and includes patient communication strategies, dental benefit information, and marketing materials to recruit and retain patients, among many other resources.

The ADA also wants to keep members informed through its research. HPRC has released a number of research briefs, which can be viewed online, outlining how fewer adults are visiting the dentist, and it plans to release further information on what is behind that shift.

"The HPRC thoroughly analyzed adult dental use over the last 12 years and the impetus behind why dental visits have become a lower priority for some adults," said Dr. Charles Norman, ADA president-elect. "The researchers have also done a great service to members by breaking down the new Affordable Care Act and its implications on dentistry. The positive takeaway from the new health care law is that it will bring new opportunities for the dental profession by contributing more aggressively to primary care and chronic disease management. These are key factors in preventing oral health problems in Americans."

The ACA pediatric dental benefit will provide millions of additional children with dental coverage through the small group and individual markets and optional Medicaid expansions, according to the environmental scan. With the increased demand for value in dental care spending, practices will need to become more efficient, the report said.

The ADA is also leading the charge when it comes to developing quality measures within oral health care. The Dental Quality Alliance is a multi-stakeholder group established by the ADA with a mission of advancing performance measurement as a means to improve oral health, patient care and safety through a consensus-building process.

In July, the DQA approved its first set of performance measures, Dental Caries in Children: Prevention and Disease Management.

"The measures put forth by the DQA are designed to evaluate dental plans for key features that will improve oral health for children. Ultimately, plan design touches every patient and practicing dentist in the United States and will become more important as the Affordable Care Act takes hold and as the model of dentistry and how it's financed changes in the future," Dr. Norman said.

Members of the ADA Board of Trustees Strategic Plan Steering Committee, which is chaired by Dr. Hilton Israelson, are using the information and research in the environmental scan as they develop Members First 2020. The committee has already drafted the mission, visions and objectives of the plan and will meet with ADA council chairs and vice chairs in December to hear their input, Dr. Israelson said.

"The research contained in the environmental scan has been extremely helpful as we determine the next steps for the Association," Dr. Israelson said. "This strategic plan will look and feel a lot different than the ones of years past and that's a result of the significant changes taking place in dentistry."

To read the full environmental scan and to watch a video detailing its findings, visit ADA.org/escan.