As they left the ADA's annual meeting last week in San Francisco, leaders of a public health dental group were breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Resolution 17, a measure some saw as a threat to their organization and specialty, failed to win approval.
If it had passed, leaders of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry (AAPHD) said that the resolution could have prevented their organization from continuing to sponsor the board that certifies their specialty.
"All and all we are pleased with the outcome," said Catherine Hayes, DMD, DMSc, president-elect of the AAPHD.
Public health dentistry is one of nine specialties currently recognized by the ADA. The resolution, put forth by the ADA's Council on Dental Education and Licensure, would have limited voting and holding office within organizations that sponsor a dental specialty to board-certified or board-eligible dentists.
In contrast, the AAPHD has a long tradition of allowing nondentists, including hygienists, epidemiologists, and other healthcare professionals, to join and serve in leadership positions. Only board-certified public health dentists are allowed to vote on matters pertaining to the specialty's national certifying board, the American Board of Dental Public Health. But working across disciplines remains an important part of the public health mission, AAPHD leaders said.
"In public health, we deal with populations using a team approach," explained Myron Allukian Jr., DDS, MPH, a past AAPHD president. "We need to work with all members of the health team and the dental team."
Going into the ADA meeting, one AAPHD member who did not want to be named worried that Resolution 17 was intended as a rebuke against AAPHD's publication of a series of papers highlighting proposed curriculum guidelines for the training of dental therapists, a model strongly opposed by the ADA (Journal of Public Health Dentistry, Spring 2011, Vol. 71:suppl s2, pp. S3-S8).
The ADA has declined comment on the matter, saying the organization does not discuss resolutions presented to the House of Delegates. When the ADA's Reference Committee convened on October 20 to consider the resolution, a long line of dentists, including members of the ADA, testified against its passage, Dr. Hayes reported.
"We had so many testifying we didn't have enough time," she said. "We got our point across."
When it was over, the Reference Committee recommended that Resolution 17 be referred back for further study and discussion, a decision approved by the House of Delegates.
"I think we are all going to have the opportunity to work together, to sit down and clear up all the misconceptions," Dr. Hayes said.