On Aug. 7, the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)—the nation’s accrediting body for academic dental programs—voted to implement national standards for dental therapy training programs, marking a turning point in the growth of the dental therapy profession.1 After three years of evaluation, the commission determined that the criteria needed to move forward with the standards have been satisfied.
CODA’s action constitutes an acknowledgment that:
- The growing demand from the public and professional communities is sufficient to sustain dental therapy education programs.
- A body of established, substantive, scientific dental knowledge supports the discipline.
Dental therapists are midlevel dental providers—similar to physician assistants on the medical team—who offer preventive and routine restorative care, such as filling cavities. They currently practice in Alaska, Minnesota, and more than 50 countries around the globe. In 2014, Maine became the latest state to allow dentists to hire dental therapists, and the state is now working to implement its legislation and create a training program.
CODA’s support is a seal of approval for the dental therapy profession, state legislators interested in authorizing dental therapists, colleges and universities, and prospective students. The national accrediting standards will provide a road map for academic institutions to launch training programs in states that authorize dental therapists, and students will benefit because their training will be recognized by more employers and will be eligible for federal financial aid, which only accredited institutions can accept.
CODA’s decision to implement these education standards represents a recognition that dental therapists offer high-quality, effective care and removes a major roadblock to the profession’s growth.2
- American Dental Association, Commission on Dental Accreditation, “Accreditation Standards for Dental Therapy Education Programs,” Feb. 6, 2015, http://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2015-archive/august/coda-votes-to-establish-accreditation-process-for-dental-therapy-education.
- David A. Nash et al., “Dental Therapists: A Global Perspective,” International Dental Journal 58, no. 2 (2008): 61–70, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18478885.