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ADA News Convention Daily

President Roberts encourages House to take a 'long view'

October 21, 2017

By Judy Jakush

ADA president: Dr. Gary L. Roberts addresses the House of Delegates Friday. Photo by EZ Event Photography

In World War II, nearly one-fourth of the Army's recruits had or needed dentures. Following the war, the Association stepped into a national discussion on improving the dental health of the U.S. population.

ADA President Gary L. Roberts, in his address to the House of Delegates Friday afternoon, cited those facts in laying the groundwork for building the Association's future.

Post-war, he said, found the ADA facing a debate. "On one side was a push to make universal dental care a reality, possibly rolling it into the new Social Security program.

"On the other side of the argument — and this was dentistry's position — was a push for a more thoughtful approach. The belief was that in order to make a dent in the dental health crisis, we needed to address the causes underlying the problem. We needed to first invest in research, then in preventive education. To fund dental health care, without first addressing the causes of the disease, was a Band-Aid solution," he told delegates.

As a result, in 1948, President Truman signed the National Dental Research Act, establishing what is now the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. In 1950, the fluoridation trial in Grand Rapids, Michigan, showed community water fluoridation worked.

"As this House of Delegates plans for our future and turns its attention toward the business at hand," the president said, "let's look to the past as a guide: That we not put Band-Aids on problems, but address root causes and that we act on plans that promise long-term viability. We want future generations to look back and see that we took a wise position and a long view."

Dr. Roberts summarized major accomplishments of the past year:

  • The Council on Scientific Affairs revitalized the trusted ADA Seal of Acceptance program, applying innovations in science, and established new categories such as enamel erosion.
  • ADA continued in its collaboration with the dental industry on oral health and access campaigns. The Association also is working with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in an effort to help prevent oral and oropharyngeal cancer.
  • The Association has strengthened its relationships with tribal nations, opening up new pathways for working together as the Community Dental Health Coordinator program continues to grow.
  • In Washington, repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act remains a priority. The House of Representatives voted to overturn the Act; the next steps are up to the Senate and the president.
  • The ADA this month launched the ADA credentialing service, powered by CAQH ProView, to save dentists time on credentialing paperwork from multiple dental plans.
  • The Find-a-Dentist too has been updated, and consumers have completed more than 238,000 searches and conducted more than 348,000 profiles of members.

"Our investment in this marketing campaign demonstrates to our members that the ADA is responsive to their needs," said Dr. Roberts. "It means that patients turn to the ADA — and not some other organization — to find their dentist."

Progress continues on licensure portability and the elimination of patient-based exams, consistent with House policies.

This year, based on the recommendation of the Joint ADA-American Dental Education Association-American Student Dental Association Licensure Task Force, the Board approved the development of a Dental Licensure OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination).

"We're also taking a leadership role in revising a specialty recognition process that was in need of revision," he said. "As you well know, ADA's current specialty recognition process is perceived as biased and subject to conflict of interest. It is also out of the norm when compared to other health care professions. There have been legal challenges to specialty advertising in California, Florida, Ohio, Indiana and Texas. It's time to make a change before outside forces do it for us."

That change is proposed in Resolution 30, which would create the National Commission on Recognition for Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards. This move would transfer specialty recognition to a new, independent commission while keeping the criteria for specialty recognition under the purview of the Council on Dental Education and Licensure and the House of Delegates.

He also called for action on a proposal to streamline the budget process to allow the Association the flexibility to more quickly respond to members' needs and to changes in the marketplace.

"My friends, from the budget process, to specialty recognition, licensure and to Find-a-Dentist, we've made incredible progress. And now we have to make decisions. We can continue to put Band-Aids on problems. We can maintain the status quo. We can wait for government to mandate change or for market forces to make us irrelevant. But we don't have to do that."

Instead, he pointed to the future. "And let's act so that in another 70 years, when an entirely new generation of dentists looks back on what did here, they are as proud of their history as we are."

Read the full speech on