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ADA Makes a Difference in Dentistry
Dental assistants are important allies on the dental team in public health initiatives
The American Dental Association (ADA), representing nearly 7 in 10 dentists in the U.S., is committed to scientific and professional advancement, ethics, and the public’s oral health. ADA president Charles H. Norman III, DDS, shared his association’s current initiatives and issues of interest to dental assistants.
In 2010, 181 million Americans did not see a dentist and 25% of children younger than age 5 already had cavities. The ADA has launched its “Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference” campaign to address the dental health crisis in America and the association is also enthusiastic about its partnership with 38 other health organizations to form the “Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives.” This coalition launched the first Ad Council campaign in August 2012 aimed at having children brush for 2 minutes, twice a day. The campaign website, 2min2x.org, offers a number of resources for children, parents, and caregivers and focuses attention on the importance of oral health in this country, particularly among children. First-year survey results indicate substantial progress in the efforts to improve children’s oral health habits, as more parents report regularly monitoring and maintaining their children’s oral health.
Most recently, the ADA Center for Professional Success was launched on ADA.org as a resource for dentists to help address changes in the work environment, the cost of technology, and issues such as a decrease in the use of dental services by young adults. The entire dental team can benefit from its business and wellness resources.
When asked how dental assistants can be part of solutions to addressing the country’s oral health access issues, Norman stated: “Dental assistants are the team members who work most closely with the dentist. Assistants who are trained to the level of scope of practice allowed in their states should be delegated these responsibilities for most efficiency.”
In his 36 years of practice, Norman has worked with five dental assistants, three of whom are still with him. “I have had to change over the years,” he says, “to meet the changes and advancements in dentistry. With advancements in technology, today’s dental assistant needs to be acutely aware of oral anatomy and occlusion. This knowledge is imperative as the assistant has a significant role in the digital impressions process, CAD/CAM-based production of dental restorations, and implant procedures, as well. Dental assistants need to accept responsibility for their roles in these changes and advancements and embrace the knowledge and skills necessary for their success.”
Norman can understand dental assistants may be frustrated with the lack of consistency in assistant duties and requirements between states, especially if an assistant needs to relocate to a state with less responsibility. “We know that more and more state dental boards are moving toward recognizing expanded functions,” he says. “We value the dental assistant’s role as part of the dental team, and we want to continue to attract individuals who have a strong interest in helping people. We need to promote the many different work environments available and encourage them to seek out their passion within the profession. Then they can have the largest impact on oral healthcare.”