By Dr. Irwin Smigel
After 25 years, the American Society for Dental Aesthetics (ASDA) has evolved into a unique organization, certainly one of a kind. The ASDA is a nonprofit group, far from wealthy, and our staff is miniscule. A kind of mystique surrounds us, even as our reputation, membership, and yearly attendance increases.
I often am asked to clarify this mystique and am questioned about what makes the ASDA succeed. People ask, "Why is it that your meetings have no tension, proceed smoothly, leave members and attendees satisfied, and leave exhibitors so content that they are bursting to return?"
I wish there were a simple answer — or if a complicated one exists, I wish I knew what it was. There are so many intangibles with an organization such as ours that it is difficult to pinpoint reasons for our success. Nonetheless, at the request of Dental Economics, I will attempt to answer this question by looking back 25 years to the ASDA's origin, hoping I'll conjure up a suitable explanation.
We were a very small group at the onset - just a handful of dentists fiercely determined to advance the concept of esthetics and the dissemination of esthetic knowledge.
Early on, we appreciated that, besides sharing knowledge and ability in esthetics, we needed to determine a purpose that would set our society apart. After considerable deliberation, we chose values.
Don't other organizations believe in values? Perhaps. But values - which I will explain soon - were to become the foundation of the ASDA's core beliefs.
Intellect and values
With most organizations, lecture presentations are based solely on intellect. Without a doubt, intellect - the offering of knowledge - is essential, but esthetics has to go further. We wanted our attendees to truly appreciate the value esthetics offers. The rewards attained from a successfully completed esthetic case are priceless, not only for the patient, but for the dentist as well. They far exceed anything our profession has offered before. We believe communicating esthetics requires more than teaching about the newest materials and techniques; the ASDA feels it is essential to teach desire - a desire to complete every case to esthetic perfection.
From our very first meeting to the present, every lecturer receives a personal letter advising him or her of the ASDA's values. Each person is told that they will address our entire audience and be asked to comply with our stated values - our desire to be the best we can be.
Power and values
As we all are aware, there are other United States esthetics organizations besides the ASDA. We respect and get along with them, yet we are quite different. The ASDA approach to learning is unique.
We attempt to make the learning experience similar to eating bittersweet chocolate. With bittersweet chocolate, one first experiences a slight bitterness, but soon is overwhelmed by the sweetness that follows. Learning is much the same. It is never easy to master something new - it's often bitter at first. But the rewards of learning are so joyful and sweet that the bitterness quickly passes and soon is forgotten. This is never more true than when performing esthetic dentistry.
The ASDA does everything possible to minimize that bitterness. We constantly search for the best value-oriented lecturers, and our hands-on courses are geared to easy listening and learning. Yes, we are growing, and, while that has given us power, we exploit that power only to make our values more predominant.
Commitment and values
Twenty-five years ago, esthetics was not considered endemic to dentistry. It was more of an offshoot to conventional modalities and rarely taught or emphasized in dental schools.
Today, the situation is completely reversed. Esthetics not only is responsible for the current popularity of dentistry, but it is generally accepted that no dental discipline should be performed without considering its esthetic consequences. Dental schools not only teach esthetics, they emphasize its value and importance.
How much the ASDA has contributed to this phenomenon is difficult to determine. We were, however, the first society to present esthetic symposiums and the first to offer hands-on courses specifically for esthetics. Further, bonding, porcelain veneers, and tooth bleaching originally were introduced at ASDA seminars.
Our commitment in 1976 was to authenticate the ASDA as an honor society and sustain the values that distinction implies. Consequently, every member of our organization has earned his or her acceptance solely on ability, and, not withstanding the ASDA's growth, our standards have not been compromised since the group's inception. The ASDA Fellowship Award, our most prestigious honor, also is merit based. Every member is eligible for this "fellowship" opportunity.
ASDA 2001 Silver Anniversary Conference
With these things in mind, the ASDA has broadened its Silver Anniversary Conference to allow more dentists to attend this year's Oct. 25-28 International Meeting at the New York Hilton and Towers in New York City. As is customary, the ASDA will present an exciting blend of esthetic experts from all over the world. Each attendee will be able to attend each and every lecture. Our speakers include: Drs. Ron Jackson, Roger Levin, Jack Shirley, Ron Feinman, Joe Carrick, Paul Belvedere, Phillipe Chpindel, James Carraway, and Irwin Smigel.
The conference culminates on the third day with the ASDA's highly acclaimed workshops, where participants will gain hands-on experience with the field's most noted specialists. Workshops will include anterior restorations, posterior restorations, lab communication, photography, practice management, bleaching today, laser dentistry, and a new endodontic fail-safe technique. Also - new this year - the ASDA will present special programs for assistants and hygienists only.
Attendees will enjoy an opportunity for camaraderie and conversation during the complimentary breakfasts and lunches, as well as at the ASDA's gala cocktail party. At the opening event, new members and fellows of the ASDA, as well as diplomates of the American Board of Aesthetic Dentistry, will be inducted.
The ASDA's 25th Annual Dinner Dance on Sat., Oct. 27 - always a memorable event - is yet another opportunity for everyone to mingle with veteran members, guest lecturers, and newcomers to the Society. A special program of entertainment and cultural and shopping events is planned for spouses and/or significant others while dentists and staff members attend the educational programs.
The Society has arranged special group rates with the New York Hilton and Towers for those attending the conference. For a limited time, dentists who register online at the Society's Web site, www.ASDAToday.com, will receive a $100 discount off the conference tuition.
For more information, call the ASDA office from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at (800) 454-ASDA.