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How specialties receive ADA recognition

The ADA started with seven recognized specialties and has only added five specialties in the past 160 years. Three of the specialties, dental anesthesiology, oral medicine and orofacial pain, were recognized in the last three years. Ever wonder why more specialties aren’t recognized? Why it took so long for these specialties to receive recognition? What
recognition means for a dental specialty and dentistry as a whole?

From “Requirements for Recognition of Dental Specialties and National Certifying Boards for Dental Specialists,” updated and adopted by the ADA in 2018:

  • The process starts with a field of dentistry that requires skills and knowledge beyond the scope of dental school education. This means a specialty like operative dentistry is unlikely to become recognized since its procedures are covered extensively in dental school.
  • Every recognized specialty must include an advanced education or residency program approved by the Commission of Dental Accreditation (CODA) lasting at least two years
  • The specialty must require skills and knowledge distinct from other specialties. A specialty like implantology or cosmetic dentistry is therefore difficult to propose because other specialties can cover a lot of the skills and knowledge on the topic.
  • If the field is distinct enough and requires advanced training, a sponsoring organization must represent the dental specialty such as the American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists for dental anesthesiology, which was adopted as a specialty in March 2019. A sponsoring organization’s membership must represent the specialty, have the capacity to vote on issues relating to the specialty, and create a board to certify specialists.

Read more in the March 2021 issue of Contour magazine.

~David Alpert, Tufts ’21, ASDA Contributing Editor

David Alpert

David Alpert is a fourth-year dental student at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. He serves as a contributing editor on ASDA's Contour Magazine. He enjoys spending time with friends and family, trying new recipes and playing the ukulele while he binges his next TV show.

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