The ADA’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) has accredited the dental therapy program at Ilisaġvik College in Utqiaġvik, Alaska. According to the National Partnership for Dental Therapy, this is the first time that CODA has granted accreditation to a dental therapy education program.
“This is an exciting day for dental therapy, not only in Alaska, but across the country,” said Sarah Shoffstall-Cone, DDS, MPH, director of oral health promotion at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and commander with the United States Public Health Service.
“This accreditation is an important stamp of approval for a provider that’s growing in prominence and that’s making a difference in the lives of so many people. We’re grateful to our many partners, funders, instructors, students, and patients for making this day possible, and we look forward to the meaningful work we’ll continue to do together going forward,” she said.
The Pew Charitable Trusts called the accreditation a victory for underserved communities and dental therapists who help make dental care more accessible. The organization also said that dental therapy has bipartisan support and has been proven to increase access to dental care.
The National Partnership for Dental Therapy, which said that it has long fought for more dental care access, is supported by Community Catalyst, the National Indian Health Board (NIHB), and the National Coalition of Dentists for Health Equity (DHE).
“This is a great victory for the countless advocates, educators, and Tribal leaders who have fought for many years to bring high-quality, community-focused oral healthcare to those who are out of reach of the traditional oral health delivery system,” said Emily Stewart, executive director at Community Catalyst.
“The accreditation of the program at Ilisaġvik College is a testament to the power communities have to design care that meets their needs and is a roadmap for the health system as a whole on how to provide equitable care,” said Stewart.
“NIHB Is pleased that the Alaska Dental Therapy Education Program has received accreditation from CODA. This program has for years educated Native oral health providers who are building paths to accessing oral healthcare and providing high-quality care in their own Tribal communities,” said Stacy A. Bohlen, chief executive officer of NIHB.
“Accreditation validates the groundbreaking and life-changing success this program continues to provide. Through NIHB’s Tribal Oral Health Initiative and the National Partnership for Dental Therapy, we will continue our work to support Tribes across the country that are bringing or want to bring dental therapy to their communities,” said Bohlen.
“NIHB sends our sincere congratulations to the faculty, staff, and students whose work made today possible,” said Bohlen.
“CODA’s accreditation of the dental therapy program at Ilisaġvik College represents a watershed moment in our efforts to improve oral health equity in the US,” said Lawrence Hill, DDS, MPH, chair of DHE.
“CODA accreditation is an acknowledgement that Ilisaġvik’s dental therapy program meets the highest educational standards. After all, CODA is the same body that accredits all other dental educational programs in the US,” said Hill.
“DHE hopes to see more dental therapy education programs receiving accreditation soon and more states embracing this evidence-based health policy,” said Hill.
Dental therapists now work or are authorized in 12 states, the Pew Charitable Trusts said. In Alaska, Pew continued, dental therapists ensure that 40,000 people living in rural areas have regular access to dental care, delivering services to those who need it most while improving the health of their communities.