In its first 100 years, the American Dental Association made quite an impact on America. With 30,000 or more members and represented by professionals over half the states by 1960, it had accomplished not only capturing public attention and helping children, but also accredited programs for those with a future in the dental field to be well educated. As technology evolved, the ADA morphed their campaigns to suit their tagline: America’s Leading Advocate for Oral Health.
ADA Growth in the Late 20th Century
With so much success, the ADA broke the ribbon on the ADA Foundation in 1964, those mission statement is: “The ADA Foundation provides charitable assistance for the dental community, and works to improve oral health by supporting access to care, research, and education programs.” (http://www.adafoundation.org) This caring brand of the ADA has greatly influenced and funded dentists in every walk of their career, as well as those in need both here in the U.S. and abroad.
The same initial year of the ADA Foundation, the ADA produced the first color television public service announcement by a non-profit health agency. Television became an invaluable tool for reaching children and teaching them about oral health. Almost a decade later, their mascot Dudley the Dragon came on page and screen. In the early 90s, he was revamped into a couple animated movies to help children banish fear of the dentist and care for their teeth like a pro.
In the late 70s, a battle with the Federal Trade Commission starts a long road of rewriting codes of conduct and restructuring the organization of the ADA. New committees and plans offered them legal stability and contributed to their continued longevity even to present day.
Research began to show a need to help those later in life with teeth issues due to less than stellar oral cleaning habits. National Senior Smile Week was created in 1986 to address the need to care for them.
Minorities within dental professions began to ask for support, and the ADA obliged. A Quality Improvement Program and Strategic Planning Committee handled these issues and more. Their hard work eventually paid off, and opened the door for the first female ADA president, Dr. Geraldine Morrow, and first woman trustee of Pennsylvania, Dr. Kay F. Thompson.
With the quick rise of internet as a marketing powerhouse, the ADA took advantage. They started their website ADA online (later becoming ada.org). Who knew that later, they’d have ten different sites, with the 2012 launch of MouthHealthy.org being a wonderful resource for consumers and the public.
The ADA Responds to Recurring Trends of Need
The ADA’s new millennium is riddled with initiatives designed to continue to educate and aid American society with the information they need to properly care for their mouth. The need may have been a direct result of Hurricane Katrina and the oral aid the ADA supplied to its victims.
In 2006, Our Legacy—Our Future initiative brought attention to the needs for dental education. The next year, the Longevity campaign for the oral health of seniors was spearheaded by the ADA as well.
In the last five years, the American Dental Association has zeroed in on a nationwide desperate need for better oral care. This process is two-fold: Helping their over 150,000 members better practice from their clinics and also launching Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference, a nationwide campaign. Like so many other health areas, America is having a dental crisis. Oral problems are abounding with the increase in cheap and processed foods, and lax emphasis of proper self-care. The ADA is working hard to help Americans make a change to better their lives.