The Site Visit Process

Program directors can learn how to prepare for site visits and what the process involves.

About Site Visits

The purpose of the site visit evaluation is to obtain in-depth information concerning all administrative and educational aspects of the program. In addition, the site visit permits a team of Commission-appointed peers to assess a program's compliance with the Accreditation Standards and with its own stated goals and objectives.

The site visit verifies and supplements the information contained in the comprehensive self-study document completed by the institution. Information provided in the self-study is confirmed, documentation is reviewed, interviews are conducted, and the program is observed by the visiting committee. Information related to the site visit is viewed as confidential.

Materials to prepare for your Advanced Dental site visit.
Materials to prepare for your DDS/DMD site visit.
Materials to prepare for your Allied Dental site visit.
Find out how to submit your comments on institutions or programs.
Download the posting form for third party comments.
Review training and other materials for those appointed to conduct site visits.

FAQs About the Site Visit Process

Why does the Commission conduct site visits?

The Commission on Dental Accreditation evaluates the educational quality of dental, advanced dental, and allied dental education programs in the United States. All 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia recognize the Commission's authority to accredit dental and dental-related education programs in the dental and dental-related disciplines. Most recently in 2017, the U.S. Department of Education reaffirmed the Commission's scope "for 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.”

The Commission on Dental Accreditation has developed Accreditation Standards for each of the disciplines within its purview. The standards, which are the basis for accreditation actions, are reviewed periodically and revised as necessary. The Commission's accreditation standards have been stated, purposefully, in terms which allow flexibility, innovation and experimentation. Regardless of the method(s) used to provide instruction (traditional or distance education), the Commission expects that each accredited program will comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the accreditation standards.

The Commission expects that one of the goals of a dental or dental-related educational program is to prepare qualified individuals in their respective disciplines. Accredited programs must design and implement their own outcomes measures to determine the degree to which stated goals and objectives are being met. Results of this ongoing and systematically documented assessment process must be used to evaluate the program's effectiveness in meeting its goals, to improve program quality and enhance student achievement.

What happens during a site visit?

From the very initial preparations to preparing a response to the site visit report, site visit procedures vary for many reasons. Because of that, this information is provided to assist the program to prepare the self-study and plan the actual visit.

All members of the site visit team carefully review the self-study document prior to the on-site review. This initial assessment serves to identify areas where the program may not comply with the Accreditation Standards or to raise questions about information that is unclear. While on site, the site visit team verifies the information provided in the self-study document and carefully assesses any unclear or problem areas. The verification process includes interviews with institutional personnel and review of program documentation. A recommendation is included in the report of the site visit when non-compliance with a standard is identified. If a particular standard is not addressed by the report, the program is viewed as meeting that standard.

The Commission recognizes that there is considerable latitude in determining procedures and methodology for site visits. Experience has shown that the conference method for conducting a site visit is widely favored and effective. Conferences are scheduled with identified administrators, faculty and students/residents/fellows at specified times. In addition to formal scheduled conferences, committee members may informally discuss department and division programs with chairpersons and faculty members throughout the site visit. In accordance with CODA policy, the visiting committee chairperson will make every effort to schedule interviews with individuals to obtain information about a program. Program administrators are excused during conferences scheduled with faculty members, students/residents/fellows or other invitees.

Executive sessions of the visiting committee are a critical part of the on-site evaluation process. These sessions are scheduled at intervals throughout the day and provide time for the committee to meet privately to prepare its findings and recommendations.

The site visit report represents the visiting committee's findings and recommendations related to the program. The site visit report, along with the institutional response to the report, serves as the Commission's primary basis for accreditation decisions. The report also guides chief executive officers and administrators of educational institutions in determining the degree of their compliance with the Accreditation Standards. The Commission, assisted by the site visit teams, identifies specific program deficiencies or areas of non-compliance with the standards, but it is the responsibility of the program to identify specific solutions or means of improvement.

How often are accredited programs evaluated?

The Commission on Dental Accreditation formally evaluates accredited programs at regular intervals. Comprehensive site visits based on a self-study are routinely conducted every seven (7) years to all programs except oral and maxillofacial surgery. Site visits of advanced dental education programs in oral and maxillofacial surgery are conducted at five (5) year intervals.

When are site visits scheduled?

The Commission's site visit schedules for allied, advanced and dental education programs can be downloaded below.

If an institution offers more than one dental or dental-related education program, do they need multiple visits?

If an institution offers more than one dental or dental-related education program, the Commission evaluates all programs during a single site visit whenever possible. Shared faculty, shared facilities and integrated curricula, as well as the time and expense involved in preparing for a visit, are among the reasons for coordinated evaluations.

Every effort is made to review all existing dental and dental-related programs in an institution at the same time. However, adherence to this policy of institutional review may be influenced by a number of factors, e.g., graduation date established for new programs, recommendations in previous Commission reports, and/or current accreditation status.

The Commission encourages the coordination of its evaluations with evaluations by regionally/nationally recognized accrediting agencies. It will make every effort to coordinate its evaluations with those of other agencies if requested to do so by an institution.

The Commission may conduct simultaneous evaluations with regional/national accrediting agencies and other specialized agencies or with state accrediting agencies such as the State Education Department. If an institution wishes to coordinate accreditation activities, the Commission should be contacted well in advance of the projected time of the site visit.

Are there opportunities to comment on institutions or programs scheduled for review?

The United States Department of Education (USDE) procedures require accrediting agencies to provide an opportunity for third-party comment, with respect to institutions or programs scheduled for review. All comments must relate to accreditation standards for the discipline and/or accreditation policies. All comments relative to programs being visited will be due in the Commission office no later than sixty (60) days prior to each program’s site visit to allow time for the program to respond. Negative comments received after the deadline of sixty (60) days prior to the site visit will be handled as a complaint.

Third-party Comment form is available to download:

Posting Form for Third Party Comments (DOC)

Comments should be submitted by email to the appropriate Commission on Dental Accreditation Staff. View the entire policy on Third Party Comments in the Evaluation & Operational Policies & Procedures manual. (PDF)

Are Alternative Site Visit Methods (virtual or hybrid) currently allowed?

Generally, the Commission has returned to in-person site visits. However, as a result of the continued impact of COVID-19 on travel, the Commission has determined temporary use of alternative site visit (i.e., virtual or hybrid site visit) methods may be necessary to fulfill the Commission’s obligation to conduct accreditation site visits to programs that are currently accredited by, or apply for accreditation by, the Commission.