Oral Health Group

Give Me a Break

April 1, 2004
by Jordan Soll, DDS

ABC news produces a timely information show called, “20/20.” The final segment each week, hosted by John Stossel, is entitled, “Give Me A Break.” In this portion of the program Stossel presents a situation that on first blush seems quite humorous and as such he presents the facts from his point of view. Consequently I have decided to get off the sidelines and wade into the waters of a topic associated with cosmetic dentistry that warrants a sober view.

Over the past 18 months, I have witnessed an interesting debate brewing that some are trying to evolve into a ground-swelling movement. This debate has centered around the theme, “Who if anyone has the right to call themselves cosmetic and/or aesthetic dentists?”


This emotional misunderstanding, as I see it, is as follows: Some believe that unless you have gone through the process of accreditation in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) you are not qualified nor should you even be allowed to refer to yourself as a cosmetic dentist. In addition it is felt that the process and ultimately the status of an accredited member of the AACD should be the basis for a certificate/diploma of specialization. Opponents to this position could not disagree more. They believe that accreditation has no status in the field of cosmetic dentistry let alone should it be the basis for the evolution of a cosmetic dentistry specialty.

Now that both sides of the squabble have declared themselves, here is one more opinion that will enrage some and comfort others. To begin with, although I have been a member of the AACD since 1995 I am not an accredited member. I have never applied for it nor do I have any intention of ever doing so. I am a general practitioner who spends a great percentage of my clinical schedule focused on appearance-related procedures. It is for the benefit of my patients (of whom a high percentage arrive at my office via referrals from satisfied clients) that I work diligently to not only meet but to exceed their expectations.

As well as my clinical obligations, I also spend a great deal of my time in education, be it publishing articles, on speaking engagements throughout Canada and the United States, or learning new concepts and principles as a student. It is the educational component of my career, where I share my work with colleagues evoking both criticism and praise that contributes to my validation of the caliber of work I perform.

During my investigation of this issue, I came across a pamphlet that highlighted the up coming clinical program of The American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry. This academy is the premiere organization in cosmetic dentistry today. Membership can only be gained by invitation and their recent Esthetic and Restorative update in March ’04 highlighted the stature of their members/speakers. This year’s program schedule included recognized world-renowned clinicians such as Harold Heyman, Mark J. Friedman, John Kanca III, Vincent Kokich, Frank Spear, and Gordon Christensen. A review of the current membership directory of the AACD reveals that only Gordon Christensen is a member.

In addition well-respected clinicians such as Cherilyn Sheets, Jacinthe Paquette and John Kois are members of the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry but are absent from the membership of the AACD. My question is, “Do these individuals lack the qualifications to refer to themselves as cosmetic dentists?”

A former president of the AACD told me, over dinner, the founding fathers’ original thoughts as to the process of accreditation and fellowship. Simply put, “If you would refer a member to another member then you would be accredited. If you would actually get into that member’s chair then you would be a fellow.” It is my belief that many accredited members who received this honor at least five years ago would not pass the process on their first try today. There are even some with accreditation status that were grandfathered-they never completed the peer review process!

One day the realm of cosmetic dentistry may achieve the status of specialty. However if this does occur it will only do so because it is an acceptable university-based program and not some process that is in place by self-appointed committees.

I believe that the requirements and results of the AACD accreditation program are worthwhile and those who wish to spend time presenting their cases to gain admission to this select group are to be admired. It speaks well of their determination to do the very best that is achievable and should be recognized as such. For those who feel that accredited individuals alone should have the right to refer to themselves as cosmetic dentists and feel that those of us who choose to present our credentials in other forums are not worthy or equal I say, “Give Me A Break.”

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