Specialty Recognition: CODA and "specialty" terminology

Update on Specialty Recognition

Specialty recognition is a critical issue not only for prosthodontics but all of the recognized specialties – and our patients.

This series of articles was developed to describe how the ACP has been involved in representing your interests as prosthodontists. Please share them with your colleagues!

See also Part 1: Recent changes in specialty recognition and Part 2: Overview of the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards

CODA and "specialty" recognition
Robert M. Taft, DDS, FACP

As you may have heard, the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) recently voted to eliminate the term “specialty” from its documentation, policies, and other materials. Instead, CODA will use the term “advanced education programs” when referring to disciplines within dental education such as prosthodontics. 

This has left some ACP members asking: am I still considered a specialist?

In short – yes, you are. This change has no effect on your status as a specialist. CODA accredits, promotes, and monitors dental education programs. It has no role in specialty recognition or specialty advertising.
The mission of CODA is to ensure the quality of dental education programs for the protection of the public and the dental profession. This change was necessary for CODA to function properly within the scope of its responsibility, as recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), which does not include specific language to distinguish between “advanced” and “advanced specialty” disciplines within dentistry. 

CODA’s scope of recognition with the  USDE is: The accreditation of predoctoral dental education programs (leading to the D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree), advanced dental education programs, and allied dental education programs that are fully operational or have attained  “Initial Accreditation” status, including programs offered via distance education. 

CODA is charged with developing and implementing accreditation standards that promote and monitor the continuous quality and improvement of dental education programs. The change from “specialty” to “advanced education programs” is intended to clarify that CODA accredits education programs but does not designate which disciplines in dentistry are “specialties”.

Hence, this change was necessary so that CODA could not be accused of restricting terminology to only the ADA-recognized dental disciplines and specialties, thereby engaging in restriction of free speech or restraint of trade. This was a response to the current legal environment, which Dr. Brackett describes on the preceding pages.

Our specialty has been represented throughout this process by Dr. John Agar as CODA Commissioner for Prosthodontics, and before him by Dr. Stephen Campbell. Representatives from the ACP attended all public meetings about the change in terminology.

The ACP has been – and will always be – steadfast in protecting the specialty and safeguarding your interests as a prosthodontist.

See also Part 1: Recent changes in specialty recognition and Part 2: Overview of the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards

Key Points

  • Moving forward, specialty recognition will be handled by a new commission that is independent from the ADA.
  • Prosthodontics has full representation on the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards. Any prospective specialties will be held to fair, unbiased, and rigorous requirements.
  • The change in terminology by CODA has no effect on your status as a specialist. CODA has no role in specialty recognition.
  • As a member of the American College of Prosthodontists, you belong to the organization that represents the specialty of prosthodontics and ensures national recognition of the specialty.
  • Your membership proves that you are a specialist. It is a symbol of your dedication to patient care.
  • Your membership makes it possible for the ACP to represent the specialty with a unified voice.