On Thursday, April 11, Dr. Charles Norman, president-elect of the American Dental Association, spoke to UNC School of Dentistry students and faculty on “The Future of Dentistry and the Role of the ADA.” An alumnus of UNC School of Dentistry, Dr. Norman shared highlights of what our profession has accomplished in the past few decades, and offered insight into the dynamic future ahead.
Dr. Norman addressed the issue of how increased student debt affects the current job market, causing a shift to large group or corporate practices. This affects dentist-patient relationships. Through research from the ADA’s Health Policy Resources Center, participants learned that patients are increasingly more willing to switch dentists based on subtle increases in fees. Overall, dental earnings have decreased in the past 3 years, and visits to the dentist are dropping among young adults. These trends seem to indicate an undervaluing of dentistry by the general public. However, Dr. Norman shared an enthusiasm for the future of our profession and the health of the people it serves.
It is essential that as dentists, we lobby for a focus on prevention, not simply a “quick fix” for later. Putting funds into prevention saves future health care costs. In the world of lobbying and politics, organized dentistry plays a significant role. Maintaining organizations for dentists to express their opinions to legislators is important for our voices to be heard.
Dr. Norman also emphasized the current and future benefits of membership in the American Dental Association. The ADA wants to help dentists become more efficient. Starting in May, the ADA is offering an online program for dentists who own and operate a practice, and the organization will also offer an online advanced degree in business management, encouraging responsible business ownership.
Dr. Norman’s presentation is an inspiration to us as members of the dental community to encourage the public to value dental care and also stand together to lobby for our field so we may continue to best serve the general population.
-Courtney Cooper, North Carolina ’16