Monday, March 18, 2024

What's Up with the ADA?


I realize this is the second post in a row on the ADA.  I also don't want you readers to think that I am 'anti-ADA' or in anyway anti organized dentistry.  That's certainly not the case.  I've been a member of the ADA since the mid-1990s and I've belonged to the AGD the same amount of time.  I've also spoken at the ADA meeting (now Smilecon) practically every year since they embraced technology with the ADA Technology Day back in 1998.  So suffice it to say that I am a huge supporter and believer in organized dentistry.  

With that being said, however, I think as a member and huge supporter, I also have a duty to speak out when I think mistakes are/were being made.

Recently, in case you missed it, the ADA announced that they have decided to invest in two high tech companies that are making inroads into the profession.  The announcement was made in a recent addition of the ADA News.  

There's also a nice writeup of it on the DPR website.  Make sure your read it.  It's written by a non-dentist who loves dentistry as much as I do.

The two companies the ADA invested in are Oral Genome and Overjet AI.  Both companies are beyond what I'd call the 'startup phase' and are now actively marketing their products to the profession.

Oral Genome is a salivary diagnostic company that provides, according to the company, "Through advanced technologies, dental providers are transforming how oral care works by identifying potential health issues before they begin."  If you go to their webpage, and scroll about halfway down, you will see a banner that scrolls "our supporters" and the ADA is listed.

Overjet AI is a company that is utilizing artificial intelligence to analyze dental radiographs to help doctors with diagnosis.  The system analyzes radiographs and then indicates areas of potential concern to practitioners.

From the science and the philosophies they communicate, I don't have a problem with either company.  I think they are doing good work.  And for transparency, I occasionally do some testing and consulting work with an Overjet AI competitor, Pearl.  We are currently using Pearl's product Second Opinion in the office.

The problem I have with all of this is the simple fact the ADA is supposed to be objective.  One of the most important things the organization does is to provide the highly valued "ADA Seal of Approval" for products.  Take a look at any major dentifrice (toothpaste) packaging and you'll likely see that seal.  

Doctors and patients both rely on the ADA to provide this objective testing prior to endorsement.  Now currently, I'm not aware of Oral Genome or Overjet AI attaining that vaulted endorsement, but what does it say when they are an investor in those companies?  Money changes things... it always does, don't let anyone fool you otherwise.  In the world of dentistry there are billions of dollars generated.  

So the question becomes, if the ADA's purpose is to speak for ALL dentists, how do they feel about an office like mine that uses a product that is a direct competitor to one they have a financial stake in?

Back in the 1980s, while negotiating nuclear arms reduction, Ronald Regan said, 'Trust but verify."  The ADA has gone out on a limb here and what I fear is that companies that they profit from hold the proverbial saw.  The organization is sailing in uncharted waters... without GPS or even a compass.

We all need to be aware of this and proceed accordingly.  Personally I don't like it.  I'm expecting some flack about this post from the powers that be.  However, I think that... at the very least the profession needs some explanation about this.  I decided to be a dentist at the age of 3 (it's a long story), but suffice it say that I *love* what I do.  The profession has made my dreams come true and I've been incredibly lucky to have that happen.  Because of that, I feel an obligation to speak out.  Let the chips fall where they may...

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