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The AGD and advocacy

June 1, 2005
Why is advocacy important in our world of general dentistry or the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD)? It is recorded that Plato once said, “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.

By W. Mark Donald, DMD, FAGD

Why is advocacy important in our world of general dentistry or the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD)? It is recorded that Plato once said, “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.” Sometimes I believe I am being punished and I cannot do anything about it, but can I? Can we dentists protect the way we practice dentistry and hopefully save ourselves from being punished?

To answer these questions, I have to relay my story of how advocacy became important to me. Early in my career, a bill was passed by the state legislature that affected the way I was practicing. As with just about all legislation, it was also going to be costly to fulfill the demands of the new law. Being a “greenhorn” at legislative matters, I simply placed a call to my state representative and asked him why he voted for the bill. After his explanation, I informed him of how it was going to affect the delivery of dental care to my patients who were voters in his district. His response was that if he had known that his vote would have caused such a negative impact, he might not have voted for it. At that point in time, I realized that the legislators, who pass laws and make rules and regulations that we as general dentists have to subsequently implement, really do not know much about running a dental practice and providing dental care to the public. I must tell you prior to that initial phone call, I only knew of my representative. After the phone call, we got to know each other better because I began to study the bills that pertained to dentistry, small business, and taxes that were before the legislature and make contact with my representative to educate him on the issues. Over time, I began to understand the importance of having someone who will listen to both sides in these important legislative positions. I began helping my representative with his re-election campaigns by contributing time and funds. Our relationship became one where he began to call on me and ask me questions prior to votes.

The bottom line of my story is that we need to be involved in the “politics” of lawmaking. That is why I got involved. I may not win or make any difference every time, but at least I am trying to protect the way I practice. I ask, is it better to do nothing? I believe it is better do something than do nothing. I believe that is why the AGD should be more involved in advocacy for the general dentists. The American Dental Association (ADA) has openly said that the ADA cannot look out just for the general dentist, but must speak for the entire profession. If this is true, what other organization will look out for the general dentist? Specialty organizations like AAOMS, AAPD, AAE, and AAO all look out for their own specialties.

If the ADA admits that they cannot be the voice of the general dentist, then who is? I believe the only answer is the AGD. I believe that the ADA and the AGD will complement each other on most, if not all, issues, but what about the issues where there is a division? Who is speaking up for us then? Two important issues come to my mind - the Oral Conscious Sedation issue and the Advanced Dental Hygiene Practitioner are two examples of how the AGD needs to be representing the general dentists. These two issues strike at vital areas of our practices.

Have you ever said, “Why should we focus so much on advocacy, when our ADA state dental society does a good job?” Your state society may be doing a great job and your issues may complement. In that case, I say team up with your state dental society and move forward. But what happens when it is not best for the general dentist? Is it like Plato said, “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber?” That is a question you will have to answer.

General dentists brighten smiles on Capitol Hill

The Legislative and Government Affairs Council (LGA) of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) visited Capitol Hill on March 22, 2005, to actively lobby on behalf of general dentists and to present awards to those in Congress who are also dedicated to the AGD’s mission of promoting oral health. The annual Capitol Hill visit succeeded not only in addressing issues that face the general dentist but recognizing those who actively work with the AGD in representing general dentists and promoting oral health to the public.

AGD presented the first annual AGD Legislative Achievement Awards to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)’s aide Bruce Leslie, due to the senator’s honorable work, dedication, and contribution to dentistry. Pictured. left to right are AGD President Dr. Thomas Howley, President-Elect Dr. Bruce Burton, Bruce Leslie, AGD Executive Director Jay Donohue, and Dr. Mark Donald.
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A capitol investment

The 2005 AGD Annual Meeting & Exhibition is the best dental education event of the year for general practitioners and their dental team. Join us when the AGD arrives in Washington, D.C., from July 13-17. For more information, visit For more information on becoming a member of the AGD, visit

Editor’s Note: This is the third of a yearlong series of articles from the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). The AGD and Dental Equipment & Materials®are working together throughout 2005 to bring you articles that will help you in your practice. For more information on the AGD, log on to or call (888) 243-3368.

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Dr. W. Mark Donald is a graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry. He is in full-time private practice in Louisville, Miss., and has been an AGD member since graduation. Dr. Donald also presently serves as Legislation and Governmental Affairs Council Chair and Consultant to the Council on Dental Care. He is Region 12 Regional Director and an AGD spokesperson. Dr. Donald is serving his second term as Speaker of the Mississippi Dental Association.

AGD’s lobbying success stories

Did you know that...

  • The AGD took a leadership role in opposing, then successfully repealing the noxious Ergonomics Regulation? This victory saved members dozens of hours a year in filling out paperwork and thousands of dollars a year in compliance costs.
  • U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman personally thanked the AGD for its efforts in crafting a bill to address the unmet needs of children’s oral health on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and that those comments were recorded in the Congressional Record?
  • Because of AGD advocacy, a leading laboratory company changed its EOB language from having scalpel biopsies performed by oral surgeons to a dentist of your choice?