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ADA Policy Statement on Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Dentistry

(Trans.2001:460; 2017)

In September 2002, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine partnered with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to commission the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to convene a study committee to investigate scientific, policy and practice questions arising from the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies by the American public. The IOM committee’s final report describes the current use of CAM in the United States, the populations using them, a summary of current practices and policies, and the development of conceptual framework linked to research and decision making. One of the key messages from the report states:

“The committee recommends that the same principles and standards of evidence of treatment effectiveness apply to all treatments, whether currently labeled as conventional medicine or CAM. Implementing this recommendation requires that investigators use and develop as necessary common methods, measures, and standards for the generation and interpretation of evidence necessary for making decisions about the use of CAM and conventional therapies.”

Historically, dentistry has evolved as a strong and respected profession based on sound science, a moral commitment of service to the public, and an ethical obligation to protect the health of the patient. The ADA strongly supports this tradition of dentistry as a profession rooted in constantly evolving scientific information and an ethical duty to act for the benefit of others. 

The dental community has always been open to emerging diagnostic and treatment approaches that over the years have improved the oral health of the public, the health of the dental team and the practice of dentistry. The ADA, consistent with its commitment to evidence-based dentistry and the improvement of oral health, supports those diagnostic and treatment approaches that allow both patient and dentist to make informed choices among safe and effective options. The provision of dental care should be based on sound scientific principles and demonstrated clinical safety and effectiveness. 

The ADA is open to the idea of integrating new therapies in clinical practice, along with those that have been already tested and shown to be safe and effective in improving patient outcomes. However, the ADA also acknowledges that interventions which are considered CAM are usually understudied interventions that require further scientific testing and investigation to draw reliable conclusions about their safety, effectiveness and potential benefits beyond placebo. 

Health care interventions, whether or not considered CAM, should be subject to testing using similar research standards and scientific rigor to provide a strong, evidence-based foundation for their safety and appropriate use. Within this context, the notion of CAM as a specific subset of interventions that belong to a specific discipline can be considered questionable.

American Dental Association
Adopted 2011 (Revised 2017)

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