Commission on Dental Accreditation – Allied Dental Education Programs

The Pierce BASDH program is accredited by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Our most recent site visit was conducted in May 2017 and we are proud to state that we have “Full Accreditation Without Reporting” until our next self-study site visit scheduled for 2024.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) formally evaluates accredited programs at regular intervals. The complete standards can be found on the CODA Standards website. Comprehensive site visits based on a self-study are routinely conducted every seven years. 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. 

A complaint is defined by the Commission as one alleging that a Commission-accredited educational program, a program which has an application for initial accreditation pending, or the Commission may not be in substantial compliance with Commission standards or required accreditation procedures.

The Commission will review complaints that relate to a Commission-accredited education program's compliance with the accreditation standards. The Commission is interested in the sustained quality and continued improvement of dental and dental-related education programs, but does not intervene on behalf of individuals or act as a court of appeal for treatment received by patients or individuals in matters of admission, appointment, promotion or dismissal of faculty, staff or students. 

The Commission strongly encourages attempts at informal or formal resolution through the program's or sponsoring institution's internal processes prior to initiating a formal complaint with the Commission.

Essential Functions for Admission Provision and Graduation from the BASDH Program at Pierce College

The Commission on Dental Accreditation accredits the Dental Hygiene program at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. A Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene degree signifies that the holder is prepared for entry into the profession of Dental Hygiene. Dental Hygiene is an intellectually, physically, and psychologically demanding profession. It is during the rigorous two year curriculum that students begin to develop the qualities needed to practice dental hygiene. Students acquire the foundational knowledge, attitudes, skills and behaviors needed throughout a dental hygienists’ professional career. Those abilities necessary to practice in as safe, competent, and professional manner are reflected in the essential functions outlined below.

Candidates for a dental hygiene degree must be able to meet these minimum standards, with or without reasonable accommodation, for successful completion of degree requirements.

The Department of Dental Hygiene has adopted the following essential functions for admission, promotion and graduation for its entry-level professional program.

Visual Acuity

  • Must be able to read small printed labels on medications and other pertinent supplies.
  • Must be able to read small numbers on instruments.
  • Must be able to determine detail in small areas of the mouth varying from under 5mm to several cm.
  • Must possess adequate depth perception to evaluate size, shape and texture in small areas with minimal contrast.
  • Must be able to determine very slight variations in color.

Speaking Ability

  • Verbal expression must be clear and distinct enough to enunciate dental terminology while wearing a face mask.
  • Must be able to express thoughts clearly.

Motor Skills

  • Must have sufficient motor function to execute movements reasonably required to provide general care and treatment to patients including: the ability to directly operate foot controls using fine movements; the ability to operate hand and mechanical dental hygiene instruments around the teeth and structures in the oral cavity; the ability to perform palpation, percussion, and other diagnostic maneuvers and procedures; the ability to transfer and position disabled patients and to physically restrain patients who lack motor control; and the ability to position and reposition self around patient and chair in a sitting or standing position.
  • Must have coordination of both gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium and integrated use of the senses of touch and vision to execute movements reasonably required to provide general care and treatment to patients as detailed above.

Adaptive Ability

  • Must be able to successfully complete required tasks/functions under stressful conditions.
  • Must be able to perform with minimal supervision.
  • Must be able to interact appropriately with all members of the dental team, patients, and patient representatives (e.g. parents, guardians, family members, interpreters, etc.).
  • Must be able to function in a structured environment with time constraints.

Language Ability

  • Must be able to read, write, speak, record and report in English.
  • Must be able to comprehend written and oral directions given in English and the ability to carry them out.
  • Must be able to have conversations in English on the telephone and one-on-one.


  • Must be able to observe demonstrations in lecture, clinical and laboratory settings.
  • Observation requires the functional use of vision, hearing and somatic sensations.


  • Must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients, and patient representatives (e.g. parents, guardians, family members, interpreters, etc.), as well as perceive nonverbal communications.
  • Must also be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with other members of the dental team and health care community to convey information essential for safe and effective care.
  • Communication includes: speech, language, reading, writing and computer literacy.

Intellectual, Conceptual, Integrative and Quantitative Abilities

  • Must possess the ability to effectively solve problems.
  • Must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, integrate and synthesize information in a timely fashion. For example, the student must be able to synthesize knowledge and integrate the relevant aspects of a patient’s history and examination findings to develop an effective treatment plan.
  • Must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and to understand spatial relationships of anatomical structures.

Behavioral and Social Attributes

  • Must possess the psychological ability required for the full utilization of their intellectual abilities to include the exercise of good judgment; the prompt completion of all responsibilities inherent to diagnosis and care of clients; the ability to demonstrate attributes of empathy, integrity, concern for others; interest, motivation, and development of mature, sensitive, empathetic, and effective relationships with patients; the ability to give, receive, and positively respond to constructive feedback; the ability to work within the context of a group or a team of peers; and the ability to demonstrate intrapersonal coping skills.
  • Must maintain a professional appearance and hygiene.
  • Must have the ability to be timely and dependable.
  • Must be able to tolerate physically and mentally taxing workloads and function effectively under stress.
  • Must be able to adapt to a changing environment, display flexibility and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of patients.
  • Must demonstrate professionally ethical behavior, including the ability to comply with rules, regulations, professional Code of Ethics and policies of the College and Clinical Affiliates.

Curriculum Requirements

  • Must be able to successfully complete, with or without reasonable accommodation, all required components of the curriculum.

Tests and Evaluations

  • Must be able to successfully complete, with or without reasonable accommodation, both written and practical periodic examinations which are employed by the Dental Hygiene Program as an essential component of the curriculum to evaluate competence.
  • Must demonstrate successful completion of these examinations as a condition for continued progress through the curriculum.

Clinical Assessments

  • Must be able to successfully demonstrate, with or without reasonable accommodation, competence of clinical skills in both laboratory and clinical settings.

Criminal Background Clearance

  • All applicants must submit to a Criminal Background Check AT TIME OF APPLICATION. (This is a change from past years.)
  • Applicants with felony convictions are not eligible to participate in the Bachelor of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene (BASDH) program courses at Pierce College.