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ADA responds to article from The Atlantic

June 18, 2019

By Jennifer Garvin

“The American Dental Association and dentists across the country are dedicated to the health and safety of the patients they serve.”

That was the message ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole emphasized in a letter to the editor of The Atlantic, in response to the magazine’s May article, “The Trouble With Dentistry.” The Atlantic published an edited version of Dr. Cole’s letter on June 16 in the online edition of the magazine. (To read Dr. Cole’s full letter, visit ADA.org/AtlanticResponse.)

In his letter, Dr. Cole addressed the article’s shortcomings, which the ADA believes enforced negative stereotypes about dentists and failed to explain the practice of evidence-based dentistry. The article focused on a California dentist who is currently the subject of multiple lawsuits stemming from charges of professional misconduct.

“The ADA is dedicated to evidence-based dentistry, which integrates the dentist’s clinical expertise, the patient’s needs and preferences, and the most current, clinically relevant evidence. All three are part of the decision-making process for patient care,” Dr. Cole wrote. “To that end, the ADA successfully advocated for evidence-based dentistry to become a required component of dental-school curricula and established the Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry to develop resources that help dentists integrate relevant scientific evidence into patient care. We have the data to show that dentists all across the country are accessing this content.”

Dr. Cole also strongly disagreed with the author’s implication that dentists are motivated by profit to pay down their student loans.

“[This implication] is not borne out by the facts,” Dr. Cole said. “For instance, dentists have for decades advocated for fluoridation of community water supplies to prevent tooth decay.

“Why does the profession advocate for something that results in less need for treatment? Because dentists are doctors of oral health, and tooth decay is a disease that we want to prevent for the good of the public,” he concluded.

The American College of Dentists has released an engagement tool for dentists who receive questions from patients who have seen the article. Visit acd.org for more information.