ADA Statement on Accrediting Dental Therapy Education Programs

Posted on August 10, 2015

WASHINGTONAug. 7, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is an independent entity recognized by the US Department of Education as the national accrediting agency for dental, allied dental and advanced dental education programs.  In February, CODA adopted standards by which programs that educate midlevel dental providers—non-dentists who perform such surgical procedures as extracting teeth--can apply for accreditation. At a meeting today, CODA determined that the accreditation process for these programs may begin. Because of the time and effort required to complete the necessary steps, however, the earliest an existing or developing dental therapy program could be accredited is estimated to be August 2016.

The Commission had determined that it would not implement the standards until one or more educational programs applied for accreditation and satisfied criteria for eligibility.  Among the criteria that must be met are whether the allied dental education area has been in operation for a sufficient period of time to establish benchmarks and adequately measure performance, and whether there is evidence of need and support from the public and professional communities to sustain educational programs in the discipline. 

The ADA, while fully supporting CODA and its role in assuring high quality standards for dental education, remains firmly opposed to allowing non-dentists to perform surgical procedures.  When it comes to affordability and access to health care, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That's why the ADA launched Action for Dental Health, a nationwide, community-based movement that provides care now to those already suffering from dental disease, strengthens and expands the public/private safety net, and brings dental health education and disease prevention into underserved communities.  Unlike proposals that will take years to implement, Action for Dental Health comprises here-and-now solutions led by ADA member dentists working with existing dental team members in an efficient, proven system that is getting more people the care that they need now.

A recent report by the ADA Health Policy Institute should put to rest any speculation about a future dentist shortage. The research shows that the number of dentists practicing per 100,000 people today has climbed more than 4 percent from 2003 to 2013, and is projected to climb 1.5 percent from 2013 to 2018 and 2.6 percent by 2033.

However, the ADA recognizes that people in underserved communities have difficulties connecting to public health resources and dentists who can provide needed treatment. That's why the ADA supports federal and state programs that offer incentives like student loan repayment assistance to attract dentists to these communities. It's also why the ADA created a new dental team member, theCommunity Dental Health Coordinator (CDHC). The initial ADA CDHC pilot project graduated 34 CDHCs. Pilot project graduates have brought their skills to such underserved communities as inner cities, remote rural areas and Native American communities in more than eight states. Three schools in New MexicoArizona and Florida are offering the CDHC program.

Access to dental care is improving for children. A Health Policy Institute study shows the rate of children visiting the dentist was at its highest in 2012, and from 2000 to 2010 dental visits among low-income children increased in 47 states. Recent data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates a downward trend in early childhood caries with increased treatment of children.

The ADA is helping communities develop programs that fit their unique needs, along with state and local dental societies, individual dentists and the many public and private partners in Action for Dental Health to provide care today to the people who need it most and, most important, work toward a better oral health system, one that emphasizes prevention over surgical treatments like fillings and extractions.

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