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A look at ADA's award-winning product line

May 19, 2014

By James Berry

The sheer volume of products and services the ADA offers its members today would mesmerize the dentist who treated you as a child.

Award-winning publications in print and online, a revised and renewed website, the ADA Member Service Center, the Center for Professional Success, the Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry, business resources, practice resources, mobile apps, patient education materials, contract analysis, insurance plans, travel services, professional advocacy, international outreach, an ethics hotline and the profession's premier dental convention, ADA 2014—America's Dental Meeting.

And that barely scratches the surface.

Over the coming months, your ADA News will offer a close-up review of the many products and services your ADA offers for you, your practice, your staff and your patients.

That journey begins in this issue with a look at the work of Product Development & Sales, a department within the Publishing Division, headed by Michael Springer, publisher and senior vice president for Business and Publishing. The division also manages The Journal of the American Dental Association and ADA News, and is a major contributor to the Association's website.

Nine PDS staff members, including Senior Director Heather Burns, produce and maintain an ever-evolving, frequently updated cache of more than 500 products in three broad categories: professional resources, patient education and "personalized" products that bear the dentist's name. All products are described in the ADA Catalog (available online at and are offered to member dentists at substantial discounts. 

"ADA Catalog products focus on the areas that mean the most to members—from practice management information to patient education," says Mr. Springer.

Staff learned in May that three PDS products had earned EXCEL Awards from Association Media & Publishing, a trade group managing "the largest and most prestigious awards program that exclusively recognizes excellence and leadership in nonprofit media," as a news release on the awards declares.

The ADA's winning entries, among 960 submissions from 110 organizations, included:

  • The 2014 ADA Annual Catalog (Gold EXCEL);
  • The ADA Practical Guide to Dental Office Design (Gold EXCEL);
  • The ADA Practical Guide to Dental Letters: Write, Blog and Email Your Way to Success (Silver EXCEL).

The patient education materials PDS offers include 67 brochures designed for dentists to use in discussing dental care and procedures with patients.  How those brochures are updated and maintained exemplifies how all PDS materials are managed year-to-year to keep them current.

Carolyn B. Tatar, senior manager, Product Development, notes that all patient brochures are evaluated and updated every three years.

"Products are added and subtracted as demand and topics change," she says. "We have streamlined the product line over the years. New topics are added as members point out what they need and what we don't have."

In the interim between revisions, all feedback from members is tracked in the ADA's Aptify database. Before a brochure is revised, PDS seeks input from a panel of member dentists identified as high-volume users and representing a cross-section from ADA districts. The panel also receives a copy of the original brochure for review.

"We get a lot of feedback from the panel, especially about how we can improve the images to make them more scientifically accurate," says Ms. Tatar.

A brochure under scrutiny also is sent for review to the ADA councils of Scientific Affairs, Dental Practice and, when appropriate, Access, Prevention and Interprofessional Relations.

With input from users, the member panel and the councils, the brochure  manuscript then goes to a researcher charged to update it as needed. Once required changes are made, ADA staff scientists and dentists, as well as appropriate specialty organizations, give the manuscript a final review.

Among its many products on the professional side, PDS is helping the ADA members engage in the electronic age. The department offers a wide range of digital products, including a digital sixth edition of the ADA/Physicians Desk Reference [to] Dental Therapeutics—which replaced the 1,000-page print edition.

For dentists just starting out, ADA offers a New Dentist Kit providing, as noted in the catalog, a guide to "all the critical components of establishing a successful practice, from HIPAA and OSHA compliance and training to developing an employee office manual with consistent rules and policies."

Increasingly popular are e-books—downloadable to office or home computers, iPads and iPhones—exploring professional topics from dental therapeutics codes to practice management and more.

Also available are apps for electronic devices on the 2014 CDT Codes; The Chairside Instructor, a visual guide to case presentations; and Toothflix, a patient-education video tool.

"Central to the ADA's mission is helping dentists establish and maintain successful practices that serve their patients well," said Mr. Springer. "By offering products that address both professional and patient needs, PDS plays a key role in that effort."