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Dental Quality Alliance convenes conference to address quality improvement

May 25, 2017

By David Burger

Stressing quality: Dr. Marie Schweinebraten, chair of the Dental Quality Alliance, gives an overview on quality measurement May 12 at the Dental Quality Alliance Conference at ADA headquarters. 
Kevin Larsen, M.D., delivered an analogy during his keynote speech.

Imagine driving a car without a dashboard and without a speedometer for a year, he said. At the end of the year, the government sends a warning letter telling you that you were driving too fast.

The need for real-time feedback was one of the themes of the Dental Quality Alliance Conference held at ADA headquarters May 12-13. At the conference, Dr. Larsen, of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, and about 100 others convened to talk about promoting the implementation of quality measurement and how to pursue common goals of quality in oral health — all while inviting feedback and back-and-forth discussion in a field that is constantly evolving.

"This was the logical place to see what's happening in the industry," said attendee Dr. Jeffrey Chaffin, vice president for Delta Dental of Iowa.

The DQA, established by the ADA in 2008, through a request from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is comprised of multiple stakeholders from across the oral health community committed to the development of consensus-based quality measures. The mission of the DQA is to advance performance measurement as a means to improve oral health, patient care and safety through a consensus-building process.

The first day of the conference focused on quality improvement from a bird's-eye view, while the second concerned how dental schools and practices could institute measures to improve the quality of patient-centered care.

Animated: ADA President Gary L. Roberts laughs during a light moment May 12 at the Dental Quality Alliance Conference at ADA headquarters.
The quality of care is a fundamental challenge for every practice, said speaker Richard Scoville, Ph.D., an improvement advisor who taught the assembled crowd about systematically working together as part of an interconnecting network.

The conference also focused on dentists learning from outside of the dental sphere, as speakers encouraged the crowd of dental professionals, physicians, educators, insurers and other people interested in quality improvement to collaborate with each other.

"Hearing about what's happening in the medical field is one of the highlights," said attendee Dr. Julie Reynolds of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics. "We're learning from the mistakes others have made."

Dr. James J. Crall, professor at the UCLA School of Dentistry and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry DQA representative, said he also appreciated the diverse viewpoints from the varied mix of stakeholders at the conference. "This really is the premier mechanism for expanding the impact of what the DQA does, by building connections," he said.

Being able to define oral health was another theme. Dr. Michael Glick, editor of the Journal of the American Dental Association and former dean of the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, spoke to the crowd about efforts by the FDI World Dental Federation to designate oral health as an integral part of general health and well-being. The evolved definition, he said, uses language that resonates with language commonly used in the health care realm.

Making a point: Dr. James J. Crall, professor and chair of public health and community dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry, comments May 12 on a presentation made at the Dental Quality Alliance Conference at ADA headquarters.
Steve Giuntoli, director of quality improvement for SKYGEN USA, a company dedicated to innovating healthcare benefits through technology-enabled solutions, said he had been in quality improvement for more than three decades and attending the conference gave him perspective on "what the best minds in our industry are doing." The conference, he said, was "an idea-generator for me."

The conference also served as the launching pad for the DQA's first online course, which aims to provide dental professionals tools to use real-time feedback to evaluate, monitor and improve their quality of services, both clinical and operational, in their practices. The free course, created in partnership with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, is available at

For more information about the Dental Quality Alliance, visit or email