Objectives: The study explored the options for accreditation of educational programs to prepare a new oral health provider, the dental therapist.
Methods: A literature review and interviews of 10 content experts were conducted. The content experts represented a wide array of interests, including individuals associated with the various dental stakeholder organizations in education, accreditation, practice, and licensure, as well as representatives of non-dental accrediting organizations whose experience could inform the study.
Results: Development of an educational accreditation program for an emerging profession requires collaboration among key stakeholders representing education, practice, licensure, and other interests. Options for accreditation of dental therapy education programs include establishment of a new independent accrediting agency; seeking recognition as a committee within the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs; or working with the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) to create a new accreditation program within CODA. These options are not mutually exclusive, and more than one accreditation program could potentially exist.
Conclusions: An educational accreditation program is built upon a well-defined field, where there is a demonstrated need for the occupation and for accreditation of educational programs that prepare individuals to enter that occupation. The fundamental value of accreditation is as one player in the overall scheme of improving the quality of higher education delivered to students and, ultimately, the delivery of health services. Leaders concerned with the oral health workforce will need to consider future directions and the potential roles of new oral health providers as they determine appropriate directions for educational accreditation for dental therapy.