The American Dental Association is the oldest dental outreach organization in the United States, representing the dental profession while also promoting oral health, ethics, science and professional advancement. The ADA not only provides a unified voice to America's dental community, it also leads the way in matters of advocacy, education, research and the development of industry standards.
What began in 1859 as a group of 26 dentists assembled in Niagara Falls, New York has grown to include 155,000 dental professionals, with 55 constituent (state-territorial) and 545 component (local) dental societies. Today, the ADA formally recognizes nine specialty areas in dental practice: public dental health, endodontics (root canal treatment), oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial surgery (oral surgery), orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics, and oral and maxillofacial radiology. (You may see a number of dental specialists during your life, including endodontists, a pediatric dentist, oral surgeon, orthodontist, periodontist or prosthodontist. Please note a cosmetic dentist is not a specialist recognized by the ADA.) The ADA has more than 400 employees, based at the association's headquarters in Chicago, or at its offices in Washington D.C. Its library houses an extensive catalog of dental literature, including 33,000 books and 17,500 bound journal volumes, in addition to its 600-strong list of subscription journal titles.
For 125 years, the ADA has been an advocate for the safety and effectiveness of America's dental products and in 1931, the ADA ushered in its Seal of Acceptance program. Participation in the program has always been strictly voluntary, yet since its inception, the ADA's Seal has come to be recognized by manufacturers, professionals and the general public alike as the topmost endorsement of a dental product's safety and effectiveness. To date, about 350 manufactures of dental products participate in the program. The Seal has become such a priority for participants that each directs significant resources into the program towards the testing and marketing of its dental products. Everything from toothpaste and chewing gum to dental floss, manual and electric toothbrushes, and mouth rinse are run through the program's approval standards before being awarded the Seal. So renowned is the ADA's program that it was given presidential recognition in 1984 by Ronald Reagan who conferred the Association with a certificate of commendation for the outstanding self-regulatory efforts of its Seal program.
As the charitable arm of the ADA, the Foundation has successfully raised awareness among the public and social institutions on issues of oral health. The Foundation secures contributions, awards grants in dental research, technology, education, care access, and provides financial assistance for dentists and their families in need. The Paffenbarger Research Center (PRC), located on the campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is an agency of the ADA Foundation and a Department of the Division of Science. PRC scientists conduct basic and applied studies in clinical research, dental chemistry, polymer chemistry and cariology.