What if organized dentistry went away?

By | December 2, 2016

Iskanian3Recently I was at a meeting with a friend who graduated with me from dental school. During the meeting, she made the comment that “organized dentistry was going away.”

Dr. Ishkanian

Dr. Ishkanian

The comment struck me, and it took me a moment to process what she said.  Over the days following the meeting, her comment ate away at me.  What would my life look like, or better yet, what would my profession look like if organized dentistry dissolved over time?

To name a few…

  • Who would advocate for me as a dentist, and serve as an educated and informed voice while I was able to treat patients?
  • Who would create the ethical standards that I abide by in order to put patients first?
  • Who would offer peer review so that I would be able to resolve a potential issue with a patient rather than navigate the legal system on my own, which can be expensive and time-consuming?
  • Who would have negotiated a 0.25 percent interest savings for members on the endorsement with DRB on student loan refinancing programs? Who would acknowledge the importance of state and local societies and other loan refinancing programs as well, promoting healthy competition to give members options?
  • Who would fight for dentist’s rights on Capitol Hill- repealing the medical device tax, promoting the Student Loan Refinancing Act and postponing compliance of Sec 1557 of the Affordable Care Act while serving as one of the strongest national political action committees?
  • Who would engage the public and be a resource through Mouthealthy.org?
  • Whose members would treat 350,000 kids annually and provide over 5 million dollars in donated dental services while bringing awareness to oral health in America through Give Kids A Smile?

The ADA.  Without the ADA, these things would never exist.

Iskanian2I’m proud to be a member of the ADA.  I’m honored to be a part of an organization that is 159,000 dentists strong.

I know that if I need something the ADA is there not just to get me through…but also to make sure that I’m successful. And even when I don’t know what I need, it’s the ADA that is the first to inform me and provide me with resources so that I can spend my time doing what I do best…. serving patients.

It’s not about discounts and offers, but rather the peace of mind I receive knowing that for the cost of a cup of coffee a day, I have someone looking out for the small business owner, the young professional, the healthcare provider.

I’m doing my part to be a cohesive voice, active member and support an organization that works tirelessly so that I can succeed.  Without truly understanding the benefits of organized dentistry and being an active member, organized dentistry will dissolve.  But I hope in my lifetime, I never see that day. I hope that my colleagues see that without the ADA, without your state and local societies…there’s no network, no unified voice.  I’d rather stand united with 159,000 ADA members than alone. Where do you stand?


Dr. Emily Iskhanian is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and the 2016-17 chair of the ADA New Dentist Committee. She is a member of the ADA, the Nevada Dental Association and the Southern Nevada Dental Association. She is active in organized dentistry nationally and locally and created Southern Nevada New Dentist group to help new dentists ease the transition into dental practice. She is also involved in volunteer work in her community. Dr. Ishkanian obtained her D.M.D. degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine in 2010 and practices as a general dentist in Las Vegas.

18 thoughts on “What if organized dentistry went away?

    1. Dr. Broadbent

      A deeply concerning question really. Another similar question: “Would you prefer to ‘go it alone?'” The reality check is both that we may think we are “going it alone” already yet also that many of us would really feel the difference if the ADA were to suddenly disappear.
      I do wish that Dr. DolordeMuelas would refer to dentistry as a “profession” rather than an industry. I am proud to be a professional serving fellow human beings and I feel that the growth of corporate dentistry is exactly that- an industry which is pushing those who participate in the corporate setting toward the “industrial” output of mediocre, middle of the road dental treatment. We, as dentists, are professionals.
      Thank you for raising this very pertinent question!

  1. Roy Thompson

    As an ADA Trustee focused on the engagement and interest of my younger colleagues, I am refreshed to read this and know our ADA will surely be in great hands for the generations of dentists to come.

  2. Tommy Harrison

    You’re article asking what would happen if there was no ADA was both informative and inspiring. I have been a member for 37 years and have served the organization in many capacities. I have discovered over the years that I get more out of organized dentistry when I give back to the organization by volunteering. It warms
    my heart when young dentists like you do the same. Thank you for your leadership in the New Dentist organization and your inspirational message.

  3. Scott Firestone

    ADA members that are involved in their association appreciate and recognize that without our organization, our professional past, present and future would look very different. The dentists that do not belong don’t, or are unwilling to, recognize that the control they still maintain over their professional lives and the quality of care they are able to provide their patients is because of organized dentistry. A case in point is the AMA. That organization represents less then 20 percent of medical doctors and their ability to influence government regulations and medical care coverage disappeared a long time ago.

  4. MEP

    I agree with your views. Membership is declining and we need more information like this!

  5. Kurtis Bray

    At a recent state board meeting I posed the question, What would dentistry look like if the ADA never existed? I think having some sort of flier or brief video to inform young dentists about what having organized dentistry has done for the profession through its existence would encourage people to join and stay active. It would sort of be like It’s a wonderful life, but the dental version.

  6. Stuart V Corso, DMD

    Dr Emily,
    I applaud your comments! Have practiced for 38 years, serving in my state peer review and on the board of the state dental society. Without organized dentistry, we would cease to be a profession, and not have a voice. Thank-you for speaking out.


    While these achievements and benefits are all well and good, I will never feel that my professional organization, to which I contributed dues for my entire career of 39 years, really did right by its members until it has the courage, funding and resolve to find a way around current state and federal anti-trust laws, which make it impossible for its members to collectively bargain with 3rd party payers (i.e. insurance companies), and so leave provider compensation, at the mercy of these companies, when ADA members are not in a position to refuse to be a participating provider for these insurance plans.
    On the other hand, it may be more challenging than herding cats to get all licensed and practicing dentists to come together as a single entity (e.g. a ‘federation of professional service corporations’) as other professions (e.g. teachers, mechanics, truckers, machinists, etc.) do. In my opinion, we dentists take such pride in being independent and working and answering to no one but ourselves. But it is this attitude that will continue to keep the profession fragmented and weak, while independent dentists refuse to look no further than their immediate self interest. I am not suggesting that we be able to collude and conspire to fix fees for services. I am suggesting that without the leverage of the entire profession behind it, any ADA effort to ‘level the playing field’ in contract negotiations will, in my uninformed opinion, be weak and ineffective.
    Perhaps another direction to take would be to develop or improve existing direct reimbursement programs that would be economically attractive to employers of all businesses, both big and small, and so directly compete with 3rd party payers in their mission to control the majority of the insurance market.
    I welcome any informed opinions and alternative views on this critical subject.

  8. Linda Himmelberger

    Eloquent! Thanks for your involvement in and commitment to the profession and your colleagues.

  9. Eugene K Sakai

    Article was well presented and is appropriate at this time in our occupation. As we see the atmosphere is one of eliminating cohesive organizations and singular focus on one`s own economic success at the risk of compromising ethics and professional morals.
    As the article clearly implies one can not do it alone.

    EK Sakai, DMD `70 OHSU

  10. Bryan Tuttle DDS

    I think that most of these things would exist, in some form or another, even if they were not part of a single organization.

    But why the question and the defense? Is organized dentistry experiencing less-than-normal support and participation? If so, perhaps participants are feeling disenfranchised and not fully represented by organized dentistry, as I often feel.

    Hopefully, the recent increase in surveys and these types of questions coming up in conversation and meetings will keep the ADA/CDA/etc. focused on what DENTISTS want from their organization, and all can thrive.

    Bryan Tuttle DDS
    El Dorado Hills, CA

  11. John E. Hoar, D.M.D

    I realize that the percentage of dentists that are members of the ADA is already alarmingly low. i am not sure when it is projected that the membership will be below 50% but it is not too far in the future, only a very few years.

    After practicing fifty three years it really doesn’t affect me, BUT, it will be a disastrous situation for both the patient population and the dental profession. For all the reasons you all have enumerated above- I can’t add more. And I do not see how this fragmentation away from a central organization can be slowed. Dentistry as a profession has offered us a great amount of independence as individuals. I sincerely hope that this freedom to operate with few, other than ethical, restraints won’t be the mechanism to push us into governmental controls that would radically alter what we do, why we do it, how we do it, and the choice to even be dentists.

    Maybe it will become obvious- I honestly don’t know.

    1. Bryan Tuttle DDS

      Wouldn’t it be the mission of organized dentistry to figure out how to better represent their members, and then do it? Although there may be other reasons, I would assume that fragmentation occurs because people do not feel represented. This article does, however, pretty adequately remind us of what organized dentistry has done/is doing for the profession.


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