To: AAO Leadership and HOD, Executive Director AAO
Open Letter to the AAO Leadership and HOD Members
Many AAO members are concerned about the direction of the AAO. This is a list of concerns and suggestions as well as an attempt to open lines of communications among rank and file members, the AAO Leadership and HOD Members to the benefit of us all.
Why is this important?
AAO Leadership and HOD members,
For some time now a growing number of AAO members have worried about the direction of our member organization. The areas of particular concern are:
1) The primary and overwhelming focus of the AAO should be on aggressively differentiating Orthodontic Specialists from Primary Care Dentists
a. We feel the CAP, while well intentioned, is not getting the job done
i. Telling patients that orthodontists go to more school is not useful when most patients do not know what an orthodontist is
ii. We believe that we must educate patients on how to tell the difference between PCDs and Orthodontic Specialists
iii. Stating facts about credentials is not negative advertising
b. We believe patient education can easily be accomplished by encouraging patients to ask some simple questions of the person claiming to be an expert in orthodontics
i. How many cases like mine have you done?
ii. Did you go to a full time, accredited orthodontic residency program or to a part time/weekend CE course?
iii. Have you or your family ever been treated by an Orthodontic Specialist?
iv. Have you ever had to ask an Orthodontic Specialist for help with orthodontic treatment in braces or aligners?
c. We are proud of orthodontists who have chosen to become ABO certified but feel it is silly to aggressively promote one orthodontists above another while we are unwilling to promote orthodontists above Primary Care Dentists.
i. The majority of dues paying AAO members are not ABO certified
ii. Once we win the orthodontists-PCD battle we can worry about promoting ABO certification
iii. This is not anti-ABO this is pro-orthodontist in an attempt to present a united front to the public
2) We believe that those of us who still need to practice orthodontics and make a living for the next 20-40 years must act now to protect and preserve the orthodontic profession and we know we need the help of the older generations to insure the orthodontic profession survives.
a. We feel the AAO leadership, by and large, do not have this same sense of urgency given the age difference and that this difference can cause disharmony among the age groups in the association if not addressed
b. We believe that the AAO leadership wants to do what is right for the profession and the membership but may not realize the jeopardy that younger members are in or the speed at which change is taking place.
c. We feel the AAO is THE membership organization that will save the profession or let it die depending on how the leadership and the HOD chooses to act now and in the long term. There are no viable alternative membership organizations and we do not see that changing
3) We believe this is a critical time for the orthodontic profession and that drastic measures are needed.
a. We feel it appropriate to suspend/cease all non-essential expenditures and reallocate all possible funds towards educating the public. Here are suggestions – certainly not all inclusive.
i. Dispense with in person meetings and utilize technology to hold virtual meetings
ii. Dispense with non-essential staff
iii. Minimize travel, food and lodging costs
iv. Stop holding regional meetings that lose money or break even
v. Have the House of Delegates meet, debate and vote via the technology that is available
vi. Dispense with receptions, parties and volunteer “thank-you” gatherings like the ones at the annual session
vii. Spin off nonessential holdings/organizations/businesses that could be run more efficiently by contracting with others
b. It may be time to reassess the mission of the AAOF and its funding in the current reality
c. We must reallocate any and all funds available to aggressively promote orthodontists as THE dental specialist to see for all orthodontic needs
d. We feel that well over half of the AAO’s 20-25 million dollar annual budget should go to effective patient education and would like to see north of two-thirds spent on educating the public
4) Because most orthodontists still rely on PCDs for patients, it is essential that our member organization shoulder the load when promoting orthodontists over PCDs. Members cannot speak up in their local areas by and large for fear of recrimination from PCDs but our national organization can. It is time to start looking at ways the AAO can do this instead of counting the reasons the AAO should not do so
5) The ADA and Primary Care Dentists are looking out for their best interests – and that is smart for them to do so. It is time for the AAO to aggressively look out for the needs of member orthodontists.
a. We understand that the AAO wants dentistry to present a “united front” and that we need the ADA and this is why the AAO Leadership fears upsetting the ADA
b. However, if this is the case then the ADA needs the AAO as much as the AAO needs the ADA
c. The ADA looks out for Primary Care Dentists with no regard for specialists – one need only look at what is allowed when it comes to specialty designation to see this.
d. The AAO must take the same stance and look out for orthodontist members.
6) The AAO must become more active on the state level. The vast majority of legislation that controls dentistry happens at the state level and the AAO must become influential in state politics – even if that means re-organization of the AAO to do so.
We, the undersigned, respectfully present this list of concerns for consideration by the AAO leadership and HOD. We are appreciative of what has been done by the AAO volunteers in the past and understand that major change is a major obstacle. However, we need our member organization now more than ever and hope that the AAO will step up and be the defender of the specialty that we so desperately need in the face of the new reality.