August 14, 2020
The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) has awarded accreditation to the Alaska Dental Therapy Education Program. The program, operated by Iḷisaġvik College with support from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, is the first dental therapy education program to receive CODA accreditation in the country.
CODA is the national body recognized by the United States Department of Education to accredit oral health provider education programs, including dental and dental hygiene programs. In 2015, CODA approved standards for dental therapy education programs.
Accreditation for the program in Alaska comes after years of work educating oral health providers, most of whom are Alaska Native, to provide quality care to over 40,000 people in Tribal communities throughout Alaska. CODA conducted a site visit of the program in March 2020.
National Indian Health Board (NIHB) Chief Executive Officer Stacy A. Bohlen said, "NIHB is pleased that the Alaska Dental Therapy Education Program has received accreditation from the Commission on Dental Accreditation. This program has for years educated Native oral health providers who are building paths to accessing oral health care and providing high quality care in their own Tribal communities. Accreditation validates the groundbreaking and life changing success this program continues to provide. Through NIHB’s Tribal Oral Health Initiative and the National Partnership for Dental Therapy, we will continue our work to support Tribes across the country that are bringing or want to bring dental therapy to their communities. NIHB sends our sincere congratulations to the faculty, staff, and students whose work made today possible.”
Dental therapists have worked under the Community Health Aide Program (CHAP) in Alaska since 2004. As IHS expands CHAP to Tribes outside Alaska, the newly accredited education program will continue to train dental therapists to work in IHS, Tribal, and other settings in the 13 states with dental therapy laws. Several of these states require that dental therapists graduate from accredited programs. This accreditation award for the Alaska program brings these communities one step closer to equitable oral health access.