The Tripartite System
For almost 100 years, organized dentistry has secured its future with the three-tiered structure that we know as The Tripartite System, which refers to the vertical membership requisite of national, state, and district dental societies, like our own Second District Valley Forge Dental Association. By pooling the individual talents of these organizations the dental profession benefits at all levels.
One measure of the wisdom of this membership requirement is the high percentage of dental association membership. That number has hovered around 70% for the last several years. Other professional organizations which have different membership schemes do not show similar success. For instance, only about 40% of practicing physicians are represented by the American Medical Association, and less than 50% of lawyers are members of the American Bar Association. The American Dental Association can truly claim that it is the authoritative voice of the dental profession. This fact explains why the American Dental Association is so effective in helping member dentists best serve their patients.
One illustration of the effectiveness of The Tripartite System is the example of National Children's Dental Health Month. In 1948, with the endorsement of the American Dental Association, President Harry S. Truman proclaimed "Children's Dental Health Day" a national observance. Today, NCDHM is the heart of the profession's myriad of dental health education efforts. The ADA sets the theme, produces materials for state distribution, and provides national news releases to hundreds of TV stations and thousands of radio stations.
At the state level, the Pennsylvania Dental Association sponsors poster contests, produces a book mark of the winner each year, distributes free Dental Health Month materials to members for the office and for school visits, advertises the efforts of individual practitioners in an issue of its Journal each year, and generates press releases for media publication.
Local dental societies in Pennsylvania do such things as present dental health films to children, distribute tooth brushes, have dental health exhibits in shopping malls, sponsor smile contests, and provide speakers.
NCDHM is only one example of the benefits of The Tripartite System. It is one effort, but each of the three levels, working together, are able to do what they do best. When endeavors are approached in this way, there is little or no redundancy.
The profession experiences similar advantages when addressing other challenges such as legislative issues, insurance concerns, lobbying activities, continuing education, environmental rules, ethical standards, state board matters or public relations efforts.
Accessing the benefits of The Tripartite System is made easier today with the assistance of the internet:
To take advantage of the vast amount of information provided by the American Dental Association, go to its award-winning website at www.ada.org. There you will find a wealth of information to help you manage your practice and provide the best possible patient care. There are links regarding the ADA Annual Session, ADA Library, the Dental Schools, Evidence-Based Dentistry, Group Insurance, Retirement programs, the Journal of the American Dental Association and its archives, business resources, and many, many other areas of interest to the dental practitioner. Hundreds of topics are appropriately addressed at the national level for membership.
Likewise, your Pennsylvania Dental Association maintains an outstanding, up-to-date website that may be accessed by going to www.padental.org. On it you will find information about the PDA Annual Meeting, its publications, continuing education opportunities, PADPAC, Governance, Councils and Committees, a Placement Service, the PDA Foundation and many other categories that impact your practice of dentistry in the Commonwealth.
The Second District Valley Forge Dental Society is one of 545 component dental societies in the ADA. It has developed this website to assist its members in being informed about issues affecting their practices in our six county area, which includes the counties of Chester, Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery, Lehigh and Northampton.
One exception to the rule of The Tripartite System is the American Student Dental Association. ASDA and the ADA work together on issues important to dental students, including licensure, ethics, and financial planning, and they advocate for these issues in Washington. ASDA offers students the opportunity to develop leadership skills by working in their headquarters, as well as the ADA Chicago and Washington offices through their externship program.
For a hundred years the American Dental Association, Pennsylvania Dental Association and the Second District Valley Forge Dental Association have served their members as a three-tier organization, The Tripartrite System. While retaining their individuality, they have all worked together for the benefit of the American dental patient and the dental profession.