Chad P. Gehani, DDS, is the new president-elect of the ADA. Chosen during a meeting of the ADA House of Delegates in Honolulu at ADA 2018 in October, he will assume the office of the presidency of the 161,000-member organization in September 2019. He recently shared his goals for his office and his perspectives on the profession with Dentistry Today.
DT: Congratulations on the successful election. How does it feel to be named president-elect?
Dr. Gehani: It feels great! It’s very humbling and gratifying to know my colleagues have the trust and faith in me to lead our great organization.
DT: In terms of clinical care, what are the biggest challenges facing dentistry? How should clinicians respond?
Dr. Gehani: Being able to provide cutting-edge treatment on continually shrinking dental benefit reimbursements is a major problem. Clinicians need to be vigilant to make sure treatment is dictated by the doctors’ diagnoses of their patients’ needs and not the company’s bottom line.
The ADA offers members a wonderful benefit in the ADA Third Party Payer Concierge, which connects dentists with ADA staff from the Center for Dental Benefits, Coding and Quality to help resolve dental benefit issues.
DT: Professionally speaking, dentistry is evolving. What are the biggest trends changing the way that dentists practice?
Dr. Gehani: Certainly technology is changing the way we practice, but basic practice itself is changing as well. As we are seeing from ADA Health Policy Institute analysis, there is an ongoing shift from solo practice to group and corporate practice. From the perspective of organized dentistry, we need to consider how that impacts the profession.
Demographics are changing as well. Enrollment in dental schools is diversified in terms of gender and ethnicity. Organized dentistry needs to reach out to all dentists and make them feel included. As the first ADA president-elect of Indian origin, I am very passionate about inclusion and diversity in our profession.
Cyber security can also be a major issue since we practice in a digital age.
DT: Access to care seems to be an ongoing crisis. What strategies do you believe would be most successful in reaching the most patients?
Dr. Gehani: I believe that the dentist should always be the head of the dental team. Dental students need to be taught how to utilize expanded function dental assistants more efficiently to serve our patients. I think student loan forgiveness programs that allow young dentists to be able to practice in underserved areas in exchange for lowering or eliminating their student debt will continue to have a major impact on access to care. And, the ADA’s Action for Dental Health initiative focuses on programs that strengthen the public health safety net, provide care now to those in need, and provide dental disease prevention and education to communities. I am thrilled that in October the US Senate unanimously passed the Action for Dental Health Act.
Medicaid reform is a key component of ADA’s Action for Dental Health initiative and is part of strengthening the public health safety net. For the first time since we started tracking this data in 2006, more than half of children on Medicaid or CHIP had a dental visit in 2016, thanks in large part to the work of the ADA. In New York, for example, I worked with the New York State Dental Association to ensure continuation and development of the New York state Medicaid program so that the state’s underserved communities can receive dental care.
DT: Student debt is growing. What effect is it having on the next generation of dentists, and what can be done to ease this burden?
Dr. Gehani: The burden of student loan debt is not limited to the dental profession, but dental student debt in particular is forcing some new graduates with the dream of owning a practice to forgo that dream and instead opt for a corporate dental setting so they can start paying back their student loans right away. Creating a national debt forgiveness program for service in underserved areas will go a long way in correcting not only this problem but access to care as well.
DT: What are your primary goals for the ADA and for the profession as president-elect?
Dr. Gehani: My primary goal as president-elect of the ADA is to demonstrate that we are the dental authority in the United States and a leader in the global dental community. I want our ADA to be the go-to source for any dental information that dentists and the public are seeking. We must make every effort to make all dentists feel included. Our members must be able to access any dental information instantly.
For the profession, I want to help protect our members from over-regulation as well as interference in their practice of dentistry by outside entities. We need to educate the public about the potential harm to their oral health caused by do-it-yourself or direct-to-consumer dentistry. The doctor/patient relationship should be sacrosanct. I want our members to succeed and to know the ADA has their back!
DT: What role do ADA members have in helping the profession to achieve those goals?
Dr. Gehani: ADA members need to get involved. Whether on the local, state, or national level, our members need to be engaged, informed, and involved. Our members can help by educating patients about the role of dentistry in their overall health and well-being. For example, our members can educate the public about the harms caused by direct-to-consumer dentistry. As always, members can contact us if they have a problem, but our goal is to enable them to achieve optimal oral health for all.
I would also look to non-members and say that now is the time to get involved in organized dentistry so that our voice on dentistry’s most pressing issues can be as strong as it possibly can be. Issues related to public health, regulation, and third party payers are not going away. We need the strength of the nation’s dentists to help us speak with a unified voice on Capitol Hill as we advocate for our patients and our profession.