About VFDA

The Tripartite System

For almost 100 years, organized dentistry has secured its future with the three-tiered structure that we know as The Tripartite System, which refers to the vertical membership requisite of national, state, and district dental societies, like our own Second District Valley Forge Dental Association. By pooling the individual talents of these organizations the dental profession benefits at all levels.

One measure of the wisdom of this membership requirement is the high percentage of dental association membership. That number has hovered around 70% for the last several years. Other professional organizations which have different membership schemes do not show similar success. For instance, only about 40% of practicing physicians are represented by the American Medical Association, and less than 50% of lawyers are members of the American Bar Association. The American Dental Association can truly claim that it is the authoritative voice of the dental profession. This fact explains why the American Dental Association is so effective in helping member dentists best serve their patients.

One illustration of the effectiveness of The Tripartite System is the example of National Children's Dental Health Month. In 1948, with the endorsement of the American Dental Association, President Harry S. Truman proclaimed "Children's Dental Health Day" a national observance. Today, NCDHM is the heart of the profession's myriad of dental health education efforts. The ADA sets the theme, produces materials for state distribution, and provides national news releases to hundreds of TV stations and thousands of radio stations.

At the state level, the Pennsylvania Dental Association sponsors poster contests, produces a book mark of the winner each year, distributes free Dental Health Month materials to members for the office and for school visits, advertises the efforts of individual practitioners in an issue of its Journal each year, and generates press releases for media publication.

Local dental societies in Pennsylvania do such things as present dental health films to children, distribute tooth brushes, have dental health exhibits in shopping malls, sponsor smile contests, and provide speakers.

NCDHM is only one example of the benefits of The Tripartite System. It is one effort, but each of the three levels, working together, are able to do what they do best. When endeavors are approached in this way, there is little or no redundancy.

The profession experiences similar advantages when addressing other challenges such as legislative issues, insurance concerns, lobbying activities, continuing education, environmental rules, ethical standards, state board matters or public relations efforts.

Accessing the benefits of The Tripartite System is made easier today with the assistance of the internet:

To take advantage of the vast amount of information provided by the American Dental Association, go to its award-winning website at www.ada.org. There you will find a wealth of information to help you manage your practice and provide the best possible patient care. There are links regarding the ADA Annual Session, ADA Library, the Dental Schools, Evidence-Based Dentistry, Group Insurance, Retirement programs, the Journal of the American Dental Association and its archives, business resources, and many, many other areas of interest to the dental practitioner. Hundreds of topics are appropriately addressed at the national level for membership.

Likewise, your Pennsylvania Dental Association maintains an outstanding, up-to-date website that may be accessed by going to www.padental.org. On it you will find information about the PDA Annual Meeting, its publications, continuing education opportunities, PADPAC, Governance, Councils and Committees, a Placement Service, the PDA Foundation and many other categories that impact your practice of dentistry in the Commonwealth.

The Second District Valley Forge Dental Society is one of 545 component dental societies in the ADA. It has developed this website to assist its members in being informed about issues affecting their practices in our six county area, which includes the counties of Chester, Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery, Lehigh and Northampton.

One exception to the rule of The Tripartite System is the American Student Dental Association. ASDA and the ADA work together on issues important to dental students, including licensure, ethics, and financial planning, and they advocate for these issues in Washington. ASDA offers students the opportunity to develop leadership skills by working in their headquarters, as well as the ADA Chicago and Washington offices through their externship program.

For a hundred years the American Dental Association, Pennsylvania Dental Association and the Second District Valley Forge Dental Association have served their members as a three-tier organization, The Tripartrite System. While retaining their individuality, they have all worked together for the benefit of the American dental patient and the dental profession.

Code of Ethics


Keeping your mouth healthy is an essential part of your overall health, and your dentist plays a key role. Your dentist is a doctor who specializes in keeping you healthy, and your relationship with him or her is very important. The best doctor patient relationships are based on trust.

When you choose an ADA member dentist, you’re choosing a dentist who has agreed to the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct. Every ADA member dentist makes a professional promise to put your health and well-being first, and is committed to dealing with you ethically and honestly.

Adopted by the ADA in 1866, the ADA Code is under constant review. While legal and ethical obligations are related, they are not the same. Ethical obligations may–and often do–exceed the letter of the law and what a doctor must do. The ADA Code is an essential part of your doctor-patient relationship. And it’s a core part of who we are as ADA member dentists.

These are the five ethical principles that make up the ADA Code:

Principle 1: Self-governance
You have the right as a patient to be involved in your treatment decisions, and your ADA dentist has a duty to honor your decisions within acceptable treatment parameters and to safeguard your privacy.

Principle 2: Do no harm
Your ADA dentist has a duty to protect you from harm and must keep his or her knowledge and skills current.

Principle 3: Do good
Your ADA dentist has a duty to promote your welfare by delivering competent and timely dental care that takes into consideration your needs, desires and values.

Principle 4: Fairness
Your ADA dentist has a duty to treat all people fairly and deliver dental care without prejudice.

Principle 5: Truthfulness
Your ADA dentist has a duty to be honest and trustworthy.

This page can be posted for patients to read. Download a copy to print. Reprinted with permission from the American Dental Association.



We are continuously working to improve the accessibility of content on our websites. Below, you’ll find a few recommendations to help make your browsing experience more accessible:

If you have trouble seeing web pages, the US Social Security Administration offers these tips for optimizing your computer and browser to improve your online experience.

If you are looking for mouse and keyboard alternatives, speech recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking may help you navigate web pages and online services. This software allows the user to move focus around a web page or application screen through voice controls.

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, there are several accessibility features available to you.

Closed Captioning

Closed captioning provides a transcript for the audio track of a video presentation that is synchronized with the video and audio tracks. Captions are generally visually displayed over the video, which benefits people who are deaf and hard of hearing, and anyone who cannot hear the audio due to noisy environments. Most of ADA’s video content includes captions. Learn how to turn captioning on and off in YouTube.

Volume Controls

Your computer, tablet, or mobile device has volume control features. Each video and audio service has its own additional volume controls. Try adjusting both your device’s volume controls and your media players’ volume controls to optimize your listening experience.

If the recommendations above do not meet your needs, we invite you to contact us at 800-854-8332 for assistance.

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