What does it take to get the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance?

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Auditor Dave Hall from Richmond, Virginia asked:

Many people wouldn’t even think of buying a dental hygiene product that didn’t have the nice big “ADA” logo on it to indicate that it was approved by the American Dental Association. That being said, what is the actual process for getting ADA approval for your product and is it really that important?

In the 1990 hit movie “Home Alone,” Macaulay Culkin’s character asks a cashier if a toothbrush is approved by the American Dental Association.

When the cashier says the product isn’t saying anything, Culkin asks her to find out, sparking a longer-than-expected conversation between the cashier and another employee about what to tell the young customer.

This scene inspired Hall to ask his question. In real life, this conversation would not take place because products that have been accepted by the association will bear the seal of the program, which was first granted by the ADA in 1931.

Today, more than 400 products, across 20 categories, have it, including sports mouth guards, fluoride toothpaste and sugar-free chewing gum, according to the ADA. The association, with more than 162,000 members, lobbies on behalf of dentists and provides resources that include a retirement program and insurance guides.

The organization’s website says 70% of people will choose a product with the ADA seal versus those without if the items are “similar in nature and price – and a majority say they would pay more for it”.

Major consumer goods companies, including Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble, and grocery chains such as Kroger and Publix, have developed products bearing the seal. You can find it on Crest White Stripes and Colgate toothpaste.

Here’s how the review process works

To receive the seal, products must already be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to Dr. Matthew Messina, ADA spokesperson, practicing dentist and assistant professor at Ohio State University College of Dentistry. .

Companies voluntarily submit their products to receive the seal. When applying, according to the ADA, companies must:

1) “Provide data from clinical studies and independent laboratories that support the safety and efficacy of the product”

2) “Submit ingredient lists and relevant product information”

3) “Provide evidence that manufacturing facilities meet FDA standards”

The ADA’s Scientific Affairs Council – which consults with scientists specializing in areas such as microbiology, pharmacology and toxicology – will then review and evaluate these products.

The seal is granted for a period of five years and companies must renew it every five years.

A report from the Associated Press in 2016 said the ADA charges manufacturers $14,500 to evaluate their products. If a product is approved, the ADA will charge an annual fee of $3,500. The ADA could not confirm at press time if these numbers have changed.

What does the seal tell consumers?

Dr. Geoffrey Thompson, director of Marquette University’s prosthodontics graduate program, said via email that sometimes ADA seal program products might have “increased efficacy,” but products without seal of the ADA “may be just as good”.

While unsealed products can also work well, ADA spokesperson Dr. Ruchi Sahota said the seal is valuable because consumers see an abundance of dental products as they “walk down that aisle. of confusion”.

Sahota, who is a dentist in Fremont, Calif., said as a mother she was okay with any product her daughter used and was happy with it. But the ADA seal guarantees that the product meets certain standards.

“When I pick up this product and see the ADA logo on it, I know that means this product has been rigorously tested, will do what it says, and is safe and effective,” Sahota said. .

Dr. Tyler Perkinson, a dentist from Richmond, Va., and co-owner of the Virginia Family Dentistry group practice, agrees that the ADA seal can be a useful visual shortcut for consumers.

As for patients asking for toothpaste recommendations, he said it’s easy to tell them to just look for the seal.

“I know a lot about toothpaste. So I can go to a website for a toothpaste I’ve never heard of before and find out what it’s for, find out what’s good about it, find out what’s not,” he said. -he declares. “A lot of people may not have the tools to really rate a toothpaste they’ve never seen before.”

However, these products are already FDA approved. So what does the additional ADA blessing accomplish?

“An unsealed product may work great,” Messina said, “but I can’t express an opinion on that because it hasn’t been independently verified.”

Messina further explained that the FDA looks at different criteria and classifies products differently.

“Some oral care products are classified by the FDA as ‘cosmetics,’ which have a completely different testing profile than what is classified as a drug – for obvious reasons,” Messina said. “Cosmetics are going to be studied just to make sure they’re not going to hurt people. But the claims of effectiveness are less rigorous.

skepticism of authority

Although some companies find the seal beneficial, the price can be a deterrent to companies that lack the financial resources to pay for the review and acceptance process. Perkinson pointed out that a conglomerate like Colgate may be adept at navigating the process, while a smaller brand may not.

Punam Anand Keller, professor and senior associate dean at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, said: “It would definitely be something a small business should consider more carefully than a large business because of the economy.”

Keller said companies want to create a competitive advantage for their products and earning the Seal of Acceptance is one way to do that.

However, the ADA’s finding that most consumers prefer products with the seal over those without, controlling for similarities like price, raised questions for Keller. “What interests me is that it’s only 70% because if you look at the rational behavior of consumers, if the products are identical and the price is identical, why wouldn’t they choose 100% the one with the seal?” she says, adding the caveat that she hasn’t seen the study.

For those who don’t know, Keller said, one reason may be that consumers don’t know what the seal means or don’t know about it. Keller herself said she hadn’t heard of it, even though she has “all kinds of dental products.” She also said that consumers may think there is a hidden cost, that the price may be the same but they get less from the product.

Keller pointed out, however, that these traditional “stamps of approval” may have less influence on consumer behavior than before. These days, consumers can easily research products online and view reviews from other shoppers to help them decide what to buy. She noted that young consumers in particular are distrustful of authorityincluding the authority of a commercial organization.

“All of this was not available in the past. You relied more on authority to make the decision, and that’s not the case anymore,” Keller said.

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