In Raj Patel's book The Value of Nothing, the author examines how we tend to overvalue the tangible things that we don't really need and undervalue the intangible things that are essential. Organizations provide members with a mix of benefits—both tangible and intangible. However, as we look to the future, the value of professional associations will be increasingly intangible. What then is the value of organized dentistry? Why do dentists from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia and the Northwest Territories need each other? And why do dentists around the world need each other?
We may have become so accustomed to the tangible benefits provided by CDA that we take them for granted. But without them, the familiar customs that are a routine part of practising dentistry would be impossible. For example, CDA maintains the Uniform System of Coding and List of Services (USC&LS)—a system that provides dentists with the universally accepted codes that we use every day to record our clinical services.
Submitting electronic claims is facilitated by CDA through its management of the CDAnet service, which works in conjunction with ITRANS to ensure that claims are submitted only by authorized dentists. Practical, chair side clinical information is provided through jcda.ca and the new JCDA-Oasis, a clinical decision support service. And for the unique needs of dentists, as they pertain to financial matters, dentists are provided with the services of CDSPI, including its specialized insurance and investment plans.
However, the benefits of CDA's other efforts may be considered intangible. To further CDA's vision of a strong profession, united community and healthy public, CDA partners with a wide variety of like-minded organizations and groups. These collaborations are vital for making progress on the issues for which we share common ground. Engagement with other oral health organizations occurs nationally, such as CDA's relationships with the Canadian Dental Specialties Association, the Canadian Dental Regulatory Authorities Federation and the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, and internationally with the American Dental Association and the FDI World Dental Federation.
This level of engagement helps CDA in its important role as a facilitator for the issues facing the dental profession across Canada, as solutions to the many cross-provincial issues often require national collaborations and a pooling of resources. Through CDA's Annual General Meeting, Consultative Forums, Dentistry Leaders' Forum and the Presidents and CEO's meetings, CDA provides a meeting place for the dialogue and exchange of ideas that are critical in addressing national issues. Some of CDA's current advocacy efforts are focused on improving access to care by developing strategies for a first visit to the dentist by age 1, and establishing standards in long-term care facilities for daily oral care and access to professional care. Addressing public perception of the profession is another matter with national significance that features prominently on CDA's agenda.
Returning to Raj Patel's concept of the relative values of tangible and intangible benefits, although the tangible benefits of CDA may be a crucial part of your everyday dental practice, the intangible benefits are equally valuable. By continuing to support the interests of dentists, professional dentistry, and the oral health of the public, the many dimensions of CDA's efforts are unquestionably valuable.