ADA diversity and inclusion

Enhance opportunities for diversity and inclusion across the ADA through focus, alignment and partnership.

A logo that reads, "Driving Change Together, National, State, Local".

The ADA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion (D&I)

The ADA is committed to a culture of diversity and inclusion to foster a safe and equitable environment for its membership. In this environment, representation matters and every member is provided intentional opportunities to make meaningful contributions. Diverse viewpoints and needs are heard, valued and respected.

The ADA embraces diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and growth, ensure a relevant and sustainable organization and deliver purposeful value to members, prospective members and stakeholders. The ADA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion will further advance the dental profession, improve the oral health of the public, and achieve optimal health for all.

View our 5-year D&I plan

A series of panel discussions on diversity, inclusion and leadership.
Explore insights in our New Dentist Now blog.
Career resources for dentists, featuring diverse voices and viewpoints.
The Champions Network is a community committed to advancing diversity and inclusion.

More about diversity and inclusion in the dental profession

The HHS Cultural Competency Program for Oral Health Professionals
Working with culturally diverse patients provides the dental team with tremendous opportunities to bridge cultural gaps, incorporate new treatments and disease prevention strategies into their practices and learn about different cultural values and cultural belief systems. The Diversity Summits Presidents Group, which comprises the American Dental Association, Hispanic Dental Association, National Dental Association, American Association of Women Dentists, Society of American Indian Dentists and Korean American Dentists Association has partnered to encourage all members to complete this program.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health course, Cultural Competency Program for Oral Health Professionals (CCPOHP) is one critical step you can take to better serve your patients, gain new ones and advance oral health equity. This asynchronous, individual or group e-learning program comprises 3 courses containing online readings, activities, and a post-test, totaling 6 CE credits. This course will give the entire dental team the basic cultural and linguistic competency needed in order to gain the:

  • Knowledge to help them deliver higher quality care to patients across lines of racial, ethnic, and cultural differences.
  • Skills needed to reduce clinical errors related to cultural and linguistic differences.
  • Greater awareness of oral health care disparities that stem from racial and ethnic differences, a step that supports overall health equity.

Learn more about CCPOHP

ADA timeline of D&I progress 

2022: We continued to build momentum across all levels of the ADA, starting with the Board of Trustees resolving that “members of the Board of Trustees take on the role of ‘sponsor’ in implementing a cultural change at the district, state and local levels, on diversity and inclusion.” To be a sponsor means the Board of Trustees authorizes, legitimizes, and demonstrates ownership for DEI change.

The ADA launched the Champions Network, an initiative that can help members and association staff create a relevant and sustainable organization for future generations.

The Diversity Summit Presidents Group (DSGP) entered its 12th year, with quarterly meetings between senior leadership of the American Dental Association, Hispanic Dental Association, National Dental Association, American Association of Women Dentists, Society of American Indian Dentists and Korean American Dentists Association. The DSPG’s purpose is to collaboration on behalf of oral health, the public and the profession.

2021: We adopted new policies on diversity, inclusion and health equity, as reflected in Resolution 69H-2021:

Resolved, that the ADA is committed to a culture of diversity and inclusion to foster a safe and equitable environment for its membership. In this environment, representation matters and every member is provided intentional opportunities to make meaningful contributions. Diverse viewpoints and needs are heard, valued and respected.

The ADA embraces diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and growth, ensure a relevant and sustainable organization and deliver purposeful value to members, prospective members, and stakeholders. The ADA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion will further advance the dental profession, improve the oral health of the public, and achieve optimal health for all.

In addition, the ADA passed Resolution 58H-2021:

Resolved, that the American Dental Association (ADA) defines oral health equity as optimal oral health for all people. The ADA is committed to promoting equity in oral health care by continuing research and data collection, advocating to positively impact the social determinants of oral health, reinforcing the integral role of oral health in overall health, supporting cultural competency and diversity in dental treatment, disease prevention education, and supporting efforts to improve equitable access to oral health care.

2020: We launched Amplifying Voices, a new webinar series hosting conversations on diversity and inclusion. We also created the ADA Accelerator Series, a program that provides financial, leadership and work/life balance tools to help ADA members accelerate their life and success, their way.

The ADA Legal Division launched resources to help dental professionals better comply with Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and remove discrimination in the dental setting.

View resources

The Policy Subcommittee of the ADA Board of Trustees recommended that as all policies come up for annual review, all pronouns are changed to general neutral forms – for example, “their” and “patient.”

2019: The ADA introduced its 2020-2025 Diversity and Inclusion Plan, outlining actions to enhance opportunities for diversity and inclusion progress across the national, state and local levels of our organization through greater focus, alignment and partnership.

View the plan

The ADA adopted Resolution 85H-2019, confirming that we recognize diversity along many dimensions, including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity, age, physical abilities/qualities, sexual orientation, religious and ideological beliefs, professional practice choices and personal lifestyle preference.

Resolved, that the ADA defines diversity through many dimensions, including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity, age, physical abilities/qualities, sexual orientation, religious and ideological beliefs, professional practice choices and personal lifestyle preference.

The House of Delegates rescinds The Dentist’s Prayer and amends its policy on recognition of religious diversity.

2016: In support of its Diversity and Inclusion Plan, the ADA adopted fostering diversity and inclusion at the state and local level as a strategic focus. The ADA also made additional progress in expanding diverse perspectives to inform the Board of Trustees in its decision making process. In addition the ADA passed its first official ADA Diversity and Inclusion Statement:

The American Dental Association strives to model diversity and inclusion in everything we do. We believe that these foster an innovative and dynamic culture and lead to sustainable results. They allow us to further advance the dental profession, improve the oral health of the public, and promote equity and access to oral health.

As a result, we serve and support the different identities, beliefs and perspectives of a diverse membership, leadership, workforce and staff, as well as a wide range of communities and organizations.

2015: The ADA elevated its focus on advancing diversity and inclusion across all levels of the ADA, national, state and local, through its 2015-2019 Diversity and Inclusion Plan, which has three primary goals:

  1. A diverse membership: build membership diversity
  2. An inclusive organization: foster an inclusive and welcoming environment
  3. A system of sustainability: institutionalize sustainability

2014: The ADA expanded the Institute for Diversity in Leadership from 12 to 16 participants and approved funding for a new leadership development network designed to increase the pool of potential ADA leaders from diverse backgrounds.

2013: The ADA recognized diversity in leadership as a strategic focus, launching a process to gain deeper insights into actions that will lead to broader representation across all ADA leadership levels. We also made progress in expanding diverse perspectives to inform the Board of Trustees in its decision-making process.

2012: The ADA implemented a two-year diversity and inclusion plan, outlining specific steps to welcome and include ADA members from all backgrounds as members, leaders and educational resources.

2011: Diversity became an explicit part of the ADA mission statement, and the definition of diversity was expanded beyond membership diversity in Resolution 54H-2011:

Resolved, that ADA diversity is defined as differences related to personal characteristics, demographics, and professional choices.

2010: The ADA took part in a landmark session of the National Summit on Diversity in Dentistry, a collaboration between the ADA, the American Association of Women Dentists, the Hispanic Dental Association, the National Dental Association and the Society of American Indian Dentists. The National Summit established a President’s Group of senior association leaders who meet regularly to review progress and define next steps in creating a welcoming, supportive, inclusive culture within the dental profession.

Dr. Raymond Gist became the ADA’s first African American president. Dr. Gist wrote an open letter on behalf of the ADA apologizing for the organization not taking a stand against discriminatory membership practices.

Read Dr. Gist’s letter

1965: The ADA Board of Trustees and House of Delegates took action on elimination of discrimination on entrance to membership.

ADA action on oral health equity

In 2021, the members of the ADA’s Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention released an oral health equity plan. The preamble below offers key insights from the plan.

“We the members of the ADA’s Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention call on the representatives of the dental community to acknowledge an equitable vision for oral health for all people.

“Oral health is an essential component of overall health. Every individual should enjoy a basic level of oral health that allows each to eat, work, learn and live in a state of wellness that precludes any semblance of oral pain or dysfunction.

“All dental safety net settings, whether public, private or a collaboration of both, should offer comprehensive oral health care that meets the needs of the individuals and communities in which they are found. Access to dental care should be appropriately considered, designed, and funded to address the oral health needs of the community and be sufficiently scaled in size to have maximum impact.

“Oral health is an essential part of any health care program and should be a consideration for the ongoing health and well-being of every patient seen by health care professionals at every level.

“Efforts to educate the public, legislators, the media and educational communities should result in a realization of the importance of oral health and appreciation of those who provide oral health preventative care and treatment services. Health care programs should be funded sufficiently to provide adequate reimbursement commensurate with practice viability.

“Charity and volunteerism generously serve short term needs as they reduce financial / transportation barriers to accessing dental care. We can continue to improve these access points by development of more permanent solutions to optimal quality oral health care for all.

“The American Dental Association calls upon all aspects of the oral health community, patients, advocates, providers and funders, to find common ground in devising impactful and sustainable oral health equity awareness and implementation strategies. Such collaboration will promote disease prevention; reduce barriers to health care, advocate for reasonable and adequate fiscal support of programs addressing the oral health needs of underserved populations, and encourage effective and efficient efforts to integrate oral health into overall health.”

View the full plan