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Operative dentistry becomes first interest area in general dentistry to receive recognition

November 01, 2016

By Kimber Solana

Hearing: Dr. Nader A. Nadershahi, chair of the Reference Committee C, and Dr. Susan M. Orwick-Barnes, committee member, listen during a hearing on Resolution 19H at ADA 2016 in Denver. Resolution 19, which calls for operative dentistry to be recognized as an interest area in general dentistry, was later adopted by the ADA House of Delegates.
The American Dental Association is recognizing operative dentistry as an interest area in general dentistry — the first to receive the distinction — after the ADA House of Delegates adopted Resolution 19H-2016 during its annual meeting in Denver.
The recognition of operative dentistry as an interest area provides a more appropriate naming or brand that enhances and advances operative dentistry postdoctoral education opportunities and research, according to the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure's recommendation to grant recognition.
The recognition is likely to lead to the development of national accreditation standards for graduate programs in the field. There are currently nine advanced education programs in operative dentistry in the U.S., with about 122 residents enrolled in the programs in 2015.
"We believe one of the best ways to get [the programs] accredited was to establish a special interest area," said Dr. Gordon Jones, chair of the Academy of Operative Dentistry's Recognition Committee, which submitted the request and application in 2014 to the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure to recognize operative dentistry as an interest area in general dentistry.
Operative dentistry is that area of general dentistry concerned with the treatment of diseases and/or defects of the hard tissues of teeth, specifically the restoration of the form, function and aesthetics of those hard tissues.
According to the application, operative dentistry is a distinct and separate field of knowledge because there are areas of operative dentistry that are unique and not taught by any other academic discipline of dentistry. These include the etiology, microbiology, prevention and treatment of dental caries; the treatment of trauma to the hard tissues of teeth; and the use of CAD/CAM technology for the restoration of teeth with inlays and onlays. In addition, operative dentistry is specifically focused on one component of the masticatory system: the hard tissues of the teeth.
Operative dentistry met all five criteria for recognition of an interest area in general dentistry, which were adopted by the ADA House of Delegates in 2010. These include that the body of knowledge is sufficient to educate individuals in a distinct advanced education area of general dentistry, not merely one or more techniques; and the competence of the graduates of the advanced education programs is important to the health care of the general public.
Graduates of advanced training programs in operative dentistry play a role for the dental profession, particularly, in military settings, in research and as faculty in dental education programs.
The recognition, Dr. Jones said, is mainly about advancing postdoctoral education in operative dentistry. For example, some programs heavily focus on computer-aided design and computer-aid manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology use, while others on different aspects of operative dentistry.
"Developing standards is good idea," he said, adding that the development of standards may lead to accreditation.
"It ultimately goes back to attracting the best residents and candidates," Dr. Jones said. "Many residents' first question about the programs is 'Is it an accredited program?' Operative dentistry is not a specialty. It's an area of general dentistry first. And it's an area that deserves recognition and support."

The next steps for AOD include working with CDEL to ensure that the official name of this interest area accurately represents its expertise and focus and working with the Commission on Dental Accreditation on pursuing an accreditation process for these advanced dental education programs.
For more information on the Academy of Operative Dentistry, visit For more information on the ADA's recognition program for interest areas in general dentistry, visit