The tools you need to find out, reach out, speak out

“I failed my licensure exam because my patient didn’t show up.”

“I’m graduating with more than $400,000 in student debt.”

“My patient couldn’t afford the treatment they desperately needed.”

These are the things dental students say, and it’s likely you will, too, during your dental student career. ASDA’s Advocacy Month aims to bolster the dental student voice by challenging ASDA members to “Find out. Reach out. Speak out” for dental student interests this midterm season and beyond.

Find out.

Identify which issues are important to you. You may not currently feel the impact of $400,000 in student debt or understand the flaws of the current licensure exam, but your dental student colleagues do. Connect with them or recent graduates to learn more about the issues from the people with first-hand experience.

Further your understanding and become an expert by reviewing ASDA’s advocacy pages and infographics. These pages review the issues, provide ASDA’s stance on them and summarize how ASDA advocates on your behalf. The infographics are a great tool to help you discuss issues with other dental students and stakeholders because they illustrate the problems with the current clinical licensure exam and specify ASDA’s solutions. Equipped with your knowledge and these tools, you’re ready to reach out to key stakeholders.

Reach out.

Advocacy is about fostering meaningful relationships with stakeholders. Depending on the issue, key players may be at the local, state or federal level. Students advocate for licensure reform at the state level because states control the licensing process, whereas students advocate for the reduction of student loan interest rates at the federal level. You’ll need to pinpoint the appropriate players for your issue. Keep in mind, stakeholders include congresspeople who may be unfamiliar with dentistry, as well as supportive individuals who want to join your coalition such as other dental students.

At the local level, advocacy events create the perfect opportunity to build relationships with dental student colleagues and other student group allies. The American Dental Education Association and the Student Professionalism and Ethics Association stand with ASDA on several student issues. Check with your chapter’s legislative liaison to see what local advocacy events are planned and if there’s an opportunity to work with other student groups.

With the midterms behind us, it’s a great time to see which representatives may champion dental student priorities. For state and federal congresspeople, consider using Engage, ASDA’s action alert system. The platform highlights state and federal legislation monitored by ASDA’s Council on Advocacy. It also provides sponsorship information and compares politician voting records to ASDA’s stances.

Speak out.

Once you’ve identified the issues that are important to you, as well as the appropriate stakeholders, you’re ready to make your voice heard. ASDA wants to help you be successful.

Attending the ADA Dentist and Student Lobby Day is one of the most effective ways to contribute your voice. More than 500 ASDA members went to Washington, D.C., for the 2018 lobby day. Students and dentists advocated for measures to alleviate the student debt burden and for opioid prescribing guidelines. These efforts most recently came to fruition with the passage of H.R. 6 – SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. Many of the elements advocated for by students at lobby day, such as the development of evidence-based opioid analgesic prescribing guidelines, are included in the law.

Lobbying on the Hill is an experience of a lifetime, but effective advocacy efforts are year-round. ASDA sends Engage Action Alerts when legislation at your state or the federal level needs your attention. Make sure you take a few minutes to add your voice to the issue when you see an Engage email notification. In these minutes, you join thousands of dental students to deliver a clear and powerful message to legislators.

Advocacy Month 2018 is a great time to kick-start your advocacy efforts. From national webinars to chapter events, there are so many ways for you to “Find out. Reach out. Speak out.” for the issues that affect you and your patients. Don’t miss this opportunity to make meaningful change for the future of your profession.


The American Student Dental Association is a national student-run organization that protects and advances the rights, interests and welfare of dental students.

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