About CODA | Commission on Dental Accreditation

About CODA

Learn more about the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

An Introduction to CODA

Establishment of the Commission

From 1938 to 1974, the American Dental Association's Council on Dental Education was recognized as the accrediting agency for dental and dental-related education programs. In 1972, the Council recognized the need to provide the communities of interest with more direct representation in accreditation decisions and policy issues. After considerable planning, the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) was formed.

CODA was established in 1975 and is nationally recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as the sole agency to accredit dental and dental-related education programs conducted at the post-secondary level.

CODA accredits predoctoral dental education programs, advanced dental education programs and allied dental education programs in the United States. The Commission also accredits predoctoral dental education programs internationally. The Commission functions independently and autonomously in matters of developing and approving accreditation standards, making accreditation decisions on educational programs and developing and approving procedures that are used in the accreditation process. It is structured to include an appropriate representation of the communities of interest.


The Commission on Dental Accreditation serves the public and dental professions by developing and implementing accreditation standards that promote and monitor the continuous quality and improvement of dental education programs.


The Commission on Dental Accreditation is a globally recognized leader for accrediting educational programs in the dental professions.


The Commission is committed to the values of collegiality, consistency, integrity, quality and transparency.

Read our Strategic Plan 2022-2026

Explore CODA Meeting Materials

CODA members represent broad communities of interest affected by accreditation decisions.
Current CODA commissioners and commissioner trainees.
Current members of CODA’s Appeal Board.
Explore our most recent Annual Report.
Learn about CODA’s strategic direction for 2022 through 2026.
CODA’s current staff and contact information.

Questions and Answers about the Commission on Dental Accreditation

What is the role of CODA?

CODA serves the public and profession by developing and implementing accreditation standards that promote and monitor the continuous quality and improvement of dental education programs. Currently, there are more than 1,400 accredited programs in the following discipline-specific education areas: predoctoral dental education, advanced dental education programs in advanced education in general dentistry, general practice residency, dental anesthesiology, orofacial pain, oral medicine, dental public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and prosthodontics, and allied dental education programs in dental hygiene, dental therapy, dental assisting and dental laboratory technology. CODA develops standards for educational programs and makes accreditation decisions about individual educational programs.

What is the difference between “accreditation” and “certification”?

Accreditation is an evaluation process where an organization or agency (e.g., CODA) uses experts in a particular field of interest or discipline (e.g., dental education) to define standards of acceptable operation/performance for universities/programs/organizations and measures compliance with them.

By contrast, certification is a process by which an organization (e.g., the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery) grants recognition of competence to an individual who has met predetermined qualifications specified by that entity.

What agency or organization authorizes CODA to carry out its function?

CODA has been granted accreditation authority for dental and dental-related education by the United States Department of Education (USDE) since 1952. This recognition affirms for the public and governmental funding and licensure agencies that CODA adheres to good accreditation practice, i.e., the Secretary of Education’s Criteria for Recognition. CODA must have autonomy to make independent accreditation decisions to maintain this recognition.

The USDE conducts reviews for continued recognition at five-year intervals. CODA was most recently granted re-recognition by the USDE Office of Postsecondary Education in July 2017.

How does CODA’S role differ from the role of the American Dental Association’s Council on Dental Education and Licensure (CDEL) and the role of the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards (NCRDSCB)?

CODA focuses on promoting quality in education through the accreditation process and evaluation of educational programs. CODA must conduct its evaluation program in a manner consistent with universally established accreditation practices and criteria of the U.S. Department of Education.

CODA must be independent in its actions, based on the nature of its role and the incredible responsibility given to it by the U.S. Department of Education. It must protect the integrity of the accreditation process (through consistent application of its high standards, plus adherence to the accreditation process and maintenance of the confidentiality of the process).

CODA’s credibility and integrity with the U.S. Department of Education, the educational institutions that go through the accreditation process, the dental profession and the American public would be in serious jeopardy if CODA ever took an action that failed to abide by these important principles.

The Council on Dental Education and Licensure (CDEL) studies and makes recommendations on American Dental Association policy related to dental, advanced dental, and allied dental education and accreditation, continuing education, recognition of dental specialties and interest areas in general dentistry, dental licensure, dental anesthesiology, allied dental credentialing, and recognition of categories of allied dental personnel.

CDEL approves the certifying boards for the dental specialties, dental assisting and dental laboratory technology and their processes for credentialing individuals. CDEL also acts as liaison to other agencies in the Association on matters related to dental education. CDEL’s role is to study and consider accreditation, dental education and licensure matters as they relate to the interests of the profession as a whole, member dentists, and the ADA in accord with the ADA Strategic Plan. In short, the CDEL is the American Dental Association’s voice on dental educational policy issues.

The National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards (NCRDSCB) is the agency that recognizes dental specialties based on the ADA Requirements for Recognition of Dental Specialties and National Certifying Boards for Dental Specialists. The National Commission is independent in its decision-making process for the recognition of dental specialties and certifying boards, ensuring that bias and conflicts of interest are avoided. The National Commission applies requirements designed to help dentists excel throughout their careers and help the public ascertain the importance of educationally qualified and board certified dental specialists.

What are the responsibilities of the CODA commissioners?

The thirty-three (33) Commission members are selected by a broad community of interest including the: American Dental Association (ADA), American Dental Education Association (ADEA), American Association of Dental Boards (AADB), ADEA/Special Care Dentistry Association, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, American Academy of Oral Medicine, American Academy of Orofacial Pain, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Periodontology, American Association of Endodontists, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American Association of Orthodontists, American Association of Public Health Dentistry, American College of Prosthodontists, American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists, American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL), and American Student Dental Association/ADEA. Additionally, four (4) members represent the public.

Members of CODA’s Board of Commissioners make accreditation decisions to award accreditation status and make decisions regarding programs’ compliance with Accreditation Standards. They also consider accreditation policy and financial matters.

In general, members of CODA assume fiduciary or public trust responsibility. Each commissioner is required to:

  • Act in the best interests of CODA
  • Avoid conflicts of interest and self-dealing
  • Exercise objective, independent, and informed judgment
  • Exercise diligence and participate actively in Commission business
  • Adhere to CODA’s mission and goals, policies and procedures
  • Maintain confidentiality about specific accredited programs
Who takes final action on all policy and accreditation of programs?

The final decision on all policy and accreditation matters is the responsibility of the Board of Commissioners. The Board makes these judgments based on its review of the material submitted, the standards themselves, recommendations from its discipline specific review committees and standing committees and others within the community of interest, and other factual information provided to it. While CODA relies heavily on the recommendations from its review committees and standing committees, CODA commissioners always make their decisions carefully after their own review of all data, since ultimately they have the responsibility for any actions taken.

What is the role of the Review Committees?

CODA’s discipline-specific review committees are responsible for the review of all policy matters pertaining to their respective educational discipline, site visit reports, progress reports, applications for initial accreditation, reports of program change, reports of noncompliance, transfer of sponsorship, and special reports related to their particular discipline. The committees gather, review and analyze data and information to formulate recommendations to CODA. Committee comments and recommendations are included in a report that is submitted to the Board of Commissioners for final action.

What terms are used to identify and describe the accreditation status of educational programs? How can one tell if a program is accredited?

Programs that are fully operational have the accreditation status of either:

APPROVAL (without reporting requirements): An accreditation classification granted to an educational program indicating that the program achieves or exceeds the basic requirements for accreditation.

APPROVAL (with reporting requirements): An accreditation classification granted to an educational program indicating that specific deficiencies or weaknesses exist in one or more areas of the program. Evidence of compliance with the cited standards must be demonstrated within eighteen (18) months if the program is between one and two years in length or two years if the program is at least two years in length. If the deficiencies are not corrected within the specified time period, accreditation will be withdrawn, unless CODA extends the period for achieving compliance for good cause. Circumstances under which an extension for good cause would be granted include, but are not limited to:

  • Sudden changes in institutional commitment;
  • Natural disaster which affects affiliated agreements between institutions; faculty support; or facilities;
  • Changes in institutional accreditation;
  • Interruption of an educational program due to unforeseen circumstances that take faculty, administrators or students away from the program.

Developing programs that are not fully operational (i.e., a program which has not enrolled and graduated at least one class of students and does not have students enrolled in each year of the program) are granted the status of initial accreditation.

INITIAL ACCREDITATION: This is the accreditation classification granted to any dental, advanced dental or allied dental education program which is not yet fully operational. This accreditation classification provides evidence to educational institutions, licensing bodies, government or other granting agencies that, at the time of initial evaluation(s), the developing education program has the potential for meeting the standards set forth in the requirements for an accredited educational program for the specific occupational area. The classification “initial accreditation” is granted based upon one or more site evaluation visit(s).

A program with any of these accreditation classifications is considered “accredited” by CODA and those who graduate are considered graduates of an accredited program.

How can a program be accredited if it has deficiencies?

CODA monitors programs’ compliance with accreditation standards through annual reports, periodic site visits, and investigation of complaints. When a program is found to be in noncompliance with one or more accreditation standards, the program is given notice and requested to correct the problem(s). CODA’s intent is to provide the program with the opportunity to improve within a reasonable amount of time. The program’s status is changed to “approval with reporting requirements,” and a warning is issued that accreditation will be withdrawn if the deficiencies are not corrected within the specified time period. Improvements are usually made within the required time frame, but occasionally programs do lose their accreditation.

Are any portions of CODA meetings open to the public?

Yes, since January 1994, CODA has opened the policy portion of its meetings to interested observers from the communities of interest. Those attending are observers only and do not participate in CODA’s discussions. Confidential accreditation matters, i.e., review of individual education programs, continue to be discussed in a limited attendance (closed session) portion of the meeting.

Why does CODA consider some of its business confidential?

Confidentiality is an integral part of the accreditation process and accepted good accreditation practice. CODA must have access to much sensitive information in order to conduct thorough reviews of programs. The confidentiality of this information must be protected by participants of meetings as well as by participants on accreditation site visits. This confidential environment encourages participants to reveal, discuss and address the strengths and weaknesses of programs. This is the best way to encourage program improvement. All meeting and site visit materials, all information obtained on-site and all discussions related to the accreditation of programs are confidential.

Are the final accreditation actions made public?

Yes, following each meeting, final accreditation actions are disclosed to all appropriate agencies, including the public. This information is posted on the CODA website, is available on request from the CODA office, and is distributed to the broad community of interest via the meeting minutes. If CODA withdraws a program’s accreditation or denies accreditation to a new program, the action is noted in CODA’s lists of accredited programs and the reasons for the adverse action are made public.

See Recent Accreditation Actions

Are the schedules or dates for site visits available to the public? How often are programs site-visited?

Yes, the scheduled dates of the last and next site visits are public information, noted in CODA’s lists of accredited programs. CODA also publishes site visit schedules online.

Site visits to programs that are fully operational are conducted every seven years with the exception of oral and maxillofacial surgery programs, which are site-visited every five years. CODA has the option of conducting a special site visit to any accredited program when it is necessary to investigate a complaint or review information that can only be obtained or documented on-site.

Learn More about Site Visits and See Schedules

Can the public provide comments regarding an accredited program prior to its scheduled site visit?

Yes, according to CODA’S Policy on Third Party Comments, any interested party such as faculty, students, program administrators, CODA site visitors, dental-related organizations, patients, and/or consumers, may submit comments relative to an accredited program prior to its scheduled site visit.

View Hearing Details and Calls for Comments

How can an interested individual provide a third-party comment?

CODA solicits comments through online publication of site visit dates. Those programs scheduled for review are responsible for soliciting third-party comments from students and patients by publishing an announcement at least 90 days prior to their site visit. Comments should be submitted to the CODA office, by email, 60 days prior to the site visit date.

Learn How to Provide a Comment

Can an individual provide comments regarding an accredited program?

Yes, in accord with CODA’S Policy on Complaints, any interested party may submit a complaint. A “formal” complaint is defined as a complaint filed in written (or electronic) form and signed by the complainant. This complaint should outline the specific policy, procedure or standard in question and rationale for the complaint including specific documentation or examples. Complainants who submit complaints verbally will receive direction to submit a formal complaint to CODA in written, signed form following guidelines in the EOPP manual guidelines.

An “anonymous comment/complaint” is defined as an unsigned comment/complaint submitted to the Commission. Any submitted information that identifies the complainant renders this submission a formal complaint and will be reviewed as such (e.g. inclusion of a complainant’s name within an email or submitted documentation). All anonymous complaints will be reviewed by Commission staff to determine linkage to Accreditation Standards or CODA policy and procedures. If further investigation is warranted, the anonymous complaint will be handled as a formal complaint (See Formal Complaints); however, due to the anonymous nature of the submission, the Commission will not correspond with the complainant. According to its Policy on Principles of Integrity, CODA mandates that programs demonstrate honesty and integrity. A program’s failure to report honestly, by presenting false information, by omission of essential information or by distortion of information with intent to mislead, constitutes a breach of integrity. Violations of the principles of integrity may be reported to CODA via the Complaint Policy.

Learn More about CODA’s Policy on Complaints

Who can request that CODA revise an accreditation standard?

CODA will consider written requests for accreditation standard revisions from any interested party, education program representative, and/or organization.

Does CODA revise standards on a regular basis?

Yes, CODA’S Policy on Assessing the Validity and Reliability of the Accreditation Standards states that CODA believes that a minimum time span should elapse between the adoption of new standards or implementation of standards that have undergone a comprehensive revision and the assessment of validity and reliability of these standards. When considering a comprehensive revision to standards, the validity and reliability of those standards will be assessed after they have been in effect for a period of time equal to the minimum academic length of the accredited program plus three years. For example, the minimum academic length of a predoctoral program is four years; so, a validity and reliability study of the Accreditation Standards for Dental Education Programs would be initiated once the standards had been in effect for seven years. When CODA revises policies or standards, it provides programs and the public with advance notice and a schedule for implementation.

How can an individual dentist or member of the public provide input to CODA?

CODA routinely seeks written and oral comments from its communities of interest when proposing a change in CODA accreditation standards. A call for comment is sought through a variety of methods, which may include: the CODA Communicator, electronic notification, and CODA minutes. Hearings on Standards are routinely conducted in conjunction with the American Dental Education Association’s annual meeting and the Annual Meeting of the American Dental Association. All comments, whether written or oral, are provided to the Review Committees, as appropriate, and to CODA for their consideration.