Specialty Recognition: National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties

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 3: CODA and "specialty" terminology

UPDATE: Dental Anesthesiology has been recognized as a dental specialty.

Overview of the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards
Frank J. Tuminelli, DMD, FACP

In October 2017, the ADA House of Delegates voted to establish the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards. This effectively removed the ADA from recognizing dental specialties and placed the responsibility with this new commission.

The mission of the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards is to provide an objective evaluation of dental specialties and their certifying boards. This is based upon transparent standards that protect the public and nurture the art and science of dentistry. The Commission is dedicated to improving the quality of care by ensuring compliance with the ADA Requirements for Recognition of Dental Specialties and National Certifying Boards for Dental Specialists.

As an organization, the Commission strives to be accepted as the standard of excellence in the recognition of the dental specialties and dental specialty certifying boards. This will be achieved by holding objectivity, integrity, transparency, and consistency as core values.

The Commission held its first meeting in May 2018. All of the ADA-recognized specialties at that juncture, including prosthodontics, are part of the Commission as founding members.

The function of the Commission is to review applications for future potential dental specialties and act on them, applying the standards of the recognized specialties to each new applicant in a manner that is fair, rigorous, and unbiased.


The Commission is composed of ten dental specialties, ten general dentists, and one public member. Members of the Commission serve one four-year term.

The overall structure consists of two working committees. One committee will examine didactic aspects and other areas of the proposed new specialty. The other committee will be tasked with ensuring that the examining board of the proposed specialty meets a rigorous set of requirements when it grants diplomate status, as the existing specialties do.

The application will be evaluated against requirements maintained by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) and Council on Dental Education and Licensure (CDEL). However, the Commission is the sole determining body. If the vote is favorable, the new specialty will be given a seat at the table and one general dentist will be added. 

The Commission is funded 50% by the ADA and 50% by the specialties, with each specialty splitting the balance equally. The goal is to keep the number of specialists and general dentists even, at least initially. Each specialty has one vote and each general dentist has one vote.

As the commissioner for prosthodontics, I am dedicated to ensuring that our unique skills and expertise as specialists are widely understood within the dental community, and that any prospective new specialties will be held to the same high standards of training, education, and certification.

See also Part 1: Recent changes in specialty recognition and Part 3: CODA and "specialty" terminology

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.