American Dental Association

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American Dental Association
FoundedAugust 3, 1859; 164 years ago (1859-08-03)[1]
FounderWilliam Henry Atkinson
Founded atNiagara Falls, New York, U.S.[1]
TypeProfessional association
Legal status501(c)(6) nonprofit organization[2]
HeadquartersChicago, Illinois, U.S.
  • United States
George Shepley[3]
Raymond A. Cohlmia[4]
SubsidiariesADA Foundation,
ADPAC Education Fund,
ADA Business Enterprises Inc,
American Dental Association Political Action Committee[2]
Revenue (2020)
Expenses (2020)$114,649,855[6]
Employees (2014)
Volunteers (2020)

The American Dental Association (ADA) is an American professional association established in 1859 which has more than 161,000 members. Based in the American Dental Association Building in the Near North Side of Chicago,[7] the ADA is the world's largest and oldest national dental association. The organization lobbies on behalf of the American dental profession and provides dental accredation.

The ADA publishes a monthly journal of dental related articles named the Journal of the American Dental Association.

As part of its lobbying efforts, the ADA has sought to restrict non-dentists (such as dental hygienists and dental therapists) from providing basic dental care.[8][9][10] The organization has played an important role in blocking the inclusion of dental coverage in Medicare.[11] The ADA has expressed opposition to the opening of new dental schools or to increasing the number of dentists in the United States, even as the United States trains almost half as many dental students (relative to population) in the 2000s as it did in the 1980s.[9]


The American Dental Association was founded August 3, 1859, at Niagara Falls, New York,[1] by twenty-six dentists who represented various dental societies in the United States. It is the largest and oldest national dental association in the world.

The association has more than 400 employees at its headquarters in Chicago and its office in Washington, D.C. The Paffenbarger Research Center (PRC), located on the campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, an agency of the American Dental Association Foundation (ADAF) and a Department of the Division of Science. PRC scientists conduct basic and applied studies in clinical research, dental chemistry, polymer chemistry and cariology, and are used by of the ADA.

Historically, the ADA has discriminated against minority dentists and sough to exclude them from its affiliates. This discrimination in part prompted the creation of the National Dental Association.[12] In 2010, the ADA apologized for its history of racial discrimination.[13]

After a Reader's Digest investigation revealed that dentists provided drastically different evaluations of the same patients and suggested drastically different treatments, ADA President Leslie Seldin said, "Dentistry is an art based on scientific knowledge, and what's most important to all of us is that we each use our professional judgment to design what we believe is the best solution for the patient."[14]

Seal of Acceptance[edit]

The ADA established rigorous guidelines for testing and advertising of dental products,[15] and the first ADA Seal of Acceptance was awarded in 1931. Today, about 350 manufacturers participate in the voluntary program and more than 1,300 products have received the Seal of Acceptance.

Product manufacturers are charged $14,500 for each product the ADA evaluates. For products that are approved, manufacturers pay an annual fee of $3,500. According to the ADA, it does not make a profit from the program.[16]

Organizational structure[edit]

The Board of Trustees, the administrative body of the association, is composed of the president, the president-elect, two vice presidents and 17 trustees from each of the 17 trustee districts in the United States. The treasurer and executive director serve as ex officio members. The House of Delegates, the legislative body of the association, is composed of 460 delegates representing 53 constituent societies, five federal dental services and the American Student Dental Association. The house meets once a year during the association's annual session.

The association's 11 councils serve as policy recommending agencies. Each council is assigned to study issues relating to its special area of interest and to make recommendations on those matters to the Board of Trustees and the House of Delegates.

The association's official publication is the Journal of the American Dental Association. Other publications include the ADA News and the ADA Guide to Dental Therapeutics.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation, which operates under the auspices of the ADA, is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accrediting body for dental, advanced dental and allied dental education programs in the United States. It is also recognized by 47 individual states.

The ADA formally recognizes nine specialty areas of dental practice: dental public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics, and oral and maxillofacial radiology.

The ADA Foundation is the charitable arm of the association.


The ADA opposes the opening of new dental schools and increases in the number of dental students.[9] The organization has questioned federal data showing a dentist shortage in the United States.[17] In the 1980s, dental schools graduated nearly twice as many students relative to total population as they did in the 2000s.[9]

The ADA has a history of trying to restrict the kind of care that dental hygienists and dental therapists are allowed to provide.[8][9] In many states, dental hygienists are required to be closely supervised by dentists when they provide care.[18] In 1991, the Director of the ADA's Council on Dental Practice expressed opposition to permit dental hygienists to work unsupervised, arguing that this would harm patients and that dental hygienists "need the dentists to review their work."[18]

In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission proposed to create a category of mid-level practitioners (dental therapists) to provide some routine dental services, which "could benefit consumers by increasing choice, competition, and access to care, especially for the underserved."[10] The ADA lobbied against the proposal, arguing that the government should rather give more funding to dentists than allow "lesser trained" therapists to provide dental services.[10] The ADA spent millions of dollars to block legislative proposals in various states to permit dental therapists to provide services.[10] The ADA's own research has shown that when dentists work with dental therapists, the rate of untreated caries was lower than in dentist-only teams.[8]

The ADA has a long history of advocating against dental coverage under national health insurance plans. In 1965, the ADA lobbied against the inclusion of dental coverage in the original Medicare program.[11] In 2021, the ADA launched a well-funded lobbying effort against proposal to provide dental insurance coverage for all Medicare recipients.[19][12] The ADA stands in contrast to the National Dental Association, which has advocated for universal dental coverage for Medicare recipients.[12] In 2021, ADA president Cesar R. Sabates credited the exclusion of Medicare dental coverage in the Build Back Better Plan to the ADA's advocacy.[20]

Critics of the ADA argue that the organization undermines competition in dental services and makes dental care in the United States less affordable.[10][21] The ADA has also been described as an "old boys club" where licensed dentists, 70% of whom are male, restrict the kinds of services that dental hygienists (more than 95% of whom are female) can provide.[10]


  • 1859: Twenty-six dentists meet in Niagara Falls, New York, and form a professional society, named the American Dental Association.
  • 1860: First ADA constitution and bylaws are adopted.
  • 1897: ADA merges with the Southern Dental Association to form the National Dental Association (NDA).
  • 1908: NDA publishes the first patient dental education pamphlet.
  • 1913: NDA adopts a new constitution and bylaws, establishing the House of Delegates and Board of Trustees.
  • 1913: The Journal of the NDA is first published, under the title, Bulletin of the National Dental Association.
  • 1920: Maude Tanner becomes the first recorded female delegate to the NDA.[22]
  • 1921: During the annual meeting of the NDA, several female dentists meet in Milwaukee and form the Federation of American Women Dentists, now known as the American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD).[23]
  • 1922: NDA is renamed the American Dental Association (ADA).
  • 1928: ADA affiliates with the National Bureau of Standards.
  • 1930: Council of Dental Therapeutics established to oversee the evaluation of dental products. The council establishes the ADA's Seal Program.
  • 1931: First ADA Seal of Approval awarded; ADA headquarters located on north side of Chicago.
  • 1936: ADA Council on Dental Education is formed.
  • 1950: ADA works with Congress to proclaim February 6 as National Children's Dental Health Day; ADA endorses fluoridation.
  • 1964: ADA produces the first color television Public Service Announcement by a non-profit health agency; ADA establishes the ADA Health Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for the purpose of engaging in dental health research and educational programs.
  • 1965: ADA changes its policies to urge the cessation of discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity or creed among its member groups and affiliates.[24]
  • 1970: ADA News is first published.
  • 1987: ADA Commission on the Young Professional is formed (later becomes the Committee on the New Dentist).
  • 1991: First female ADA president, Geraldine Morrow, is elected.[25]
  • 1995: ADA Web site, ADA ONLINE, created (later becomes
  • 2002: First Asian-American ADA president, Eugene Sekiguchi, is elected; he is Japanese-American.[26][27]
  • 2009: First female ADA executive director is chosen, Kathleen O'Loughlin.[28][29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "American Dental Association". Baltimore Sun. August 9, 1859. p. 4.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". American Dental Association. Guidestar. December 31, 2014.
  3. ^ "Linda J. Edgar, D.D.S., elected ADA president-elect". ADA. Retrieved 4 December 2022.
  4. ^ "Dr. George R. Shepley installed as ADA president". October 18, 2022.
  5. ^ "ADA 990 form 2020".
  6. ^ "ADA 990 form 2020".
  7. ^ "Contact Us." American Dental Association. Retrieved on December 23, 2011. "211 East Chicago Ave. Chicago, IL 60611-2678"
  8. ^ a b c Koppelman, Jane; Vitzthum, Kelly; Simon, Lisa (2016). "Expanding Where Dental Therapists Can Practice Could Increase Americans' Access To Cost-Efficient Care". Health Affairs. 35 (12): 2200–2206. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2016.0844. ISSN 0278-2715.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Boom Times for Dentists, but Not for Teeth". New York Times. 2007.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Jordan, Mary (2023-04-08). "The unexpected political power of dentists". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
  11. ^ a b "Five Decades Later, Medicare Might Cover Dental Care". New York Times. 2021.
  12. ^ a b c "Getting dental coverage added to Medicare faces pushback from some dentists". NPR. 2021.
  13. ^ "ADA Apologizes For Tolerating Discrimination In '60s". NPR. 2010.
  14. ^ Ecenbarger, William (1994). "How Dentists Rip Us Off" (PDF). Reader's Digest.
  15. ^ "ADA Seal: General Criteria for Acceptance". American Dental Association. Archived from the original on 7 January 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  16. ^ Jeff Donn (August 2, 2016). "Medical benefits of dental floss unproven". Associated Press. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
  17. ^ "The Website Isn't the Only Problem with Obamacare". Governing. 2014-01-02.
  18. ^ a b Squires, Sally (1991-03-05). "Dentists vs. Dental Hygienists". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286.
  19. ^ Bykowicz, Julie (2021-09-27). "Dentists' Group Fights Plan to Cover Dental Benefits Under Medicare". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660.
  20. ^ "Medicare Part B dental benefit not included in House passed legislation". Retrieved 2022-03-29.
  21. ^ Boehm, Eric (2017-07-07). "How Dentists Use Their Political Clout to Limit Competition".
  22. ^ Patricia Blanton (2006-11-01). "Women in Dentistry: Negotiating the Move to Leadership". Archived from the original on 2015-03-27. Retrieved 2012-08-04.
  23. ^ unknown. "History of AAWD". American Association of Women Dentists. Archived from the original on September 30, 2017. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  24. ^ Blackwell, James Edward (1987). Mainstreaming outsiders: the production of Black professionals (2nd ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 116. ISBN 0-930390-76-8.
  25. ^ "First female ADA president, Dr. Geraldine Morrow, is elected".
  26. ^ Sekiguchi, Eugene (2014-11-28). "It Depends on Where You Are". Discover Nikkei. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  27. ^ "A Personal Stake". 23 October 2002.
  28. ^ "Bio of Dr. Kathleen O'Loughlin, American Dental Association Executive Director". May 5, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  29. ^ "Dr. Kathleen O'Loughlin Named American Dental Association Executive Director". American Dental Association. May 5, 2009. Retrieved May 7, 2013.

External links[edit]