The Dental Manufacturers of America (est. 1932)
The ADTA had a positive impact on the dental trade, but not all dental companies were allowed to share in its early successes. Whether it was because of their small size or the backgrounds of their owners, some manufacturers and dealers were excluded from the ADTA. While many of these company owners took considerable pride in their independent status, they also recognized that without some sort of organization, they would have no voice in shaping trade regulations nor would they be able to gain entrance into many dental exhibitions. To that end, a Russian immigrant named Albert D. Mizzy gathered ten of his fellow manufacturers in New York City to “determine ways and means by which could be made manifest and effective their purpose to co-operate with the dealers whereby their conditions may be benefitee [sic], and trade conditions in general improved, to mutual advantage.” After some debate as to whether or not they should join one of the regional dealers’ associations, the manufacturers determined the best course of action would be to form a national association. Thus, on May 17, 1932, the Dental Manufacturers of America was born. Ironically, many of the early members disliked the name and were eager to find an alternative.
DMA’s earliest members recognized that it would be an uphill battle to gain the sort of recognition that ADTA had. Most of them were small business owners who possessed neither the market share nor the influence of some of the nation’s more established manufacturers. Many were also immigrants or the children of immigrants, which carried its own set of personal and professional challenges. Nevertheless, these individuals persevered to gain recognition for themselves and their association. Their success is evidenced by the fact that some of their companies, such as Premier, Temrex, Star Dental (DentalEZ), Parkell, Crosstex, Whip Mix and Lang Dental are current members of the DTA and, in some instances, still owned by the same families.
While DMA performed many of the same functions as other trade associations, its leadership sought to attract new members by establishing a credit department to share information about and collect payment from delinquent dealers. They also fought hard to gain access to many dental exhibits and even obtained representation in the United States Code Authority, ensuring that DMA would have an equal voice in shaping government regulations pertaining to the dental trade. Finally, in 1945 they helped the independent dealers to organize their own association, the Dental Dealers of America. This would foster a greater level of cooperation between independent manufacturers and dealers than had hitherto existed.
Although much of DMA’s early strength came from its members, it must be acknowledged that DMA was particularly blessed in terms of its executive leadership. After the untimely passing of the association’s first executive secretary, Benjamin Weinrach, a Pennsylvania entrepreneur and business professor purchased the organization and DDA. His name was Dr. Edward Benjamin Shils, and for the next fifty years he would serve as DMA’s Executive Director. Under his capable leadership, DMA sharpened its focus on education and entrepreneurship, developing many new, innovative programs. The most notable of these was the Midwinter Preview Show in Chicago, which played a key role in the organization’s massive growth in the 1970’s and 80’s.
As the years passed, DMA began to expand its focus. The organization always had sizable pavilions at international trade shows such as IDS, and in 1994, it held the first World Dental Trade Conference in order to educate its members about global trade issues. Domestically, the organization continued its efforts to foster greater cooperation between manufacturers and distributors, eventually merging with the DDA. This, coupled with Dr. Shils' retirement in 2002, led to a serious reevaluation of the organization’s mission and priorities. It also prompted the DMA’s leadership to (finally) change its name in order to reflect its wider scope of activity and more diverse group of members. The name they settled on was the Dental Trade Alliance. While this name would only be used in the final year of the organization’s existence, it would prove to be among its most noticeable contributions to the organization that followed.