Grassroots advocacy refers to a movement that grows spontaneously and naturally. This movement generally stems from a common interest or belief. At the MDS, grassroots advocacy stems from our members' common interest in both protecting dentists' livelihoods and ensuring patients' access to the best possible care. To meet these goals, the MDS and our members advocate for and against legislation and raise awareness on the issues.
Ways to Engage Your Legislator
Here are three ways you can connect with your legislators:
- Host a coffee hour. These informal meetings with your legislators at your office affords you the opportunity to speak with them in a small-group setting about issues that affect your practice and your patients. Just recruit several of your dental colleagues to attend. The MDS Government Affairs team can work with your representative's or senator’s office to schedule a time that works for all.
- Attend district office hours: Almost all representatives and senators hold office hours in their district to collect feedback from constituents. This is a great opportunity to speak to the legislator directly or with a member of their senior staff. Contact the MDS Government Affairs team beforehand to request the Society’s legislative priorities for the session and gain some insight on how to approach having a conversation with your legislator.
- Set up a State House meeting: Like a coffee hour, a State House meeting is an opportunity to speak with your representative and/or senator face-to-face about the legislation the Society supports and issues that impact your dental practice. The Government Affairs team can assist with scheduling this type of meeting and can attend these meetings to provide background on MDS legislation.
Five Tips for Engaging Your Legislator
Here are five tips for how you can be your own best advocate:
- Find the right people to talk to. Find out who your elected officials are by visiting the Massachusetts Legislature website and entering your address on the Find My Legislator page.
- Engage with your legislators online. Sign up for their email lists and follow them on social media to see what type of issues they are talking about. Many elected officials use email and social media to regularly communicate and interact with their constituents.
- Engage with your legislators in person. Schedule a meeting with your legislator when they are at their district office to convey a message about a legislative issue. For all in-person meetings, make sure to be on time, be respectful, and go in prepared.
- Invite your legislator to visit your office. Organizing a tour of your office for your legislator is a powerful way to give them an up-close look at dentistry and dental professionals in action. Your outreach will help build a relationship with your elected officials and their staff and help to educate them about the importance of issues facing dentists and patients.
- Think bigger than yourself. Representatives and senators, both on the state and federal level, want to do what is best for their constituents. When you engage with them, you should try to connect what you are requesting to the best interests of the constituency. For example, saying “I serve more than 100 patients who don’t want minimally trained midlevel providers performing procedures on their mouths” will have a greater impact than “I don’t like midlevel providers.” Showing that you speak for your patients and employees, as well as yourself, may make your legislator more willing to listen.
The first step to becoming a strong advocate for dentistry is familiarizing yourself with current issues facing the profession. The MDS website and the American Dental Association's Action Center are both excellent resources for learning about legislation, grassroots, and political action initiatives on both the statewide and national levels.
To learn about federal legislation that impacts the dental profession, visit actioncenter.ada.org.