Does the AAAHC accredit dental offices?

Ask The Expert, January 5, 2005

Q: I work in a dental office and wonder if AAAHC accreditation applies to our office. If so, how can we begin the process?

A: The AAAHC accredits dental organizations, and has been doing so since 1983. Three main accredited groups fall into the category of dentistry and related services. General dental practices top the list. The AAAHC currently accredits 51 general dental practices, a majority of which belong to dental group practices. However, nothing prevents a solo practitioner from seeking AAAHC accreditation. Traditionally, oral surgery practices also seek accreditation through the AAAHC. Currently 173 accredited organizations list oral surgery as one of their services. Finally, many ambulatory healthcare organizations, as well as the United States Coast Guard and Indian Health Service organizations, provide dental services as a part of the care they give. Typically these types of accredited organizations use general dentists, pediatric dentists, and/or oral surgeons on staff. These providers must comply with accreditation standards in the same manner as all other practitioners at an accredited organization.

Dental and related services are also well represented on the AAAHC Board of Directors. Both the American Academy of Dental Group Practice and the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons sit on the AAAHC board and The American Dental Association serves with official observer status on the board.

A dentist or dental group usually gets interested in accreditation through either contact with an accredited group, attending a national meeting of the American Academy of Dental Group Practice or the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, or though a business affiliation. Getting started usually requires a principal in the office (generally a dentist) to act as the driving force. While in medical practice, many business and economic reasons exist to seek accreditation, in a dental practice the main reason is to try to measure up to established and respected national care standards. In dentistry, the decision to seek accreditation is often the toughest step.

Once the decision is made, the process can be lengthy and intense. The AAAHC does not tell a dentist how to practice dentistry, but complying with the standards requires every practice to address issues and possible problems that most dental settings don't often think about. Not dealing with potential problems can get any practice in trouble, but often in dentistry the liabilities aren't as significant as in a medical setting. Going through an accreditation survey requires a dental practice to recognize, address, and grapple with areas of risk management that may never arise. In so doing, the practice elevates its care to patients and enhances its esteem among staff in ways that aren't often measurable.  

Answered by Bruce Rogers, DDS, MBA, AAAHC surveyor and vice president of quality improvement at University Dental Associates.

What questions do you have about complying with AAAHC standards? Please e-mail them to Managing Editor Janet Spiegel at "jspiegel@hcpro.com'>mailto:jspiegel@hcpro.com">jspiegel@hcpro.com Although we cannot answer all of your questions, we will select those of general interest for future publications.

Note: Due to the volume of questions received, it is not always possible to answer all questions.  If you have a question of an urgent nature, please contact the AAAHC directly at "info@aaahc.org'>mailto:info@aaahc.org">info@aaahc.org, or 847/853-6060.