DMACC’s dental assistant program in danger of losing accreditation

Community college needs facility update, officials say

By: - September 14, 2023 6:29 pm

DMACC's dental assistant program is in danger of losing its accreditation if facility needs are not met. (Stock photo via Canva)

Des Moines Area Community College is working to keep its dental assistant training program’s accreditation after its accreditor outlined issues with facilities and language clarification.

Jeanie McCarville-Kerber, dean of Health & Public Services at DMACC, told DMACC board members this week the college’s dental assistant program is in danger of losing its accreditation because of concerns with its sterilization space. She said in the meeting that the area where tools and instruments are sterilized does not meet Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) or OSHA standards.

Other concerns brought up by CODA included ensuring only one student is working at each chair station, providing additional information about faculty and clarifying contents of syllabi. McCarville-Kerber said the program has rectified all violations except the sterilization area.

“We have formal written notice that with dental assisting, (CODA) has an intent to withdraw the accreditation, and that was for a variety of reasons,” McCarville-Kerber said. “We have been rewriting that, we’re on our third rewrite, which I feel more confident than ever before (about).”

CODA is the only agency in the U.S. to accredit post-secondary dental programs.


DMACC’s dental assisting program has 29 students currently enrolled, McCarville-Kerber said.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation lists the DMACC dental assisting program accreditation status as “Approval with Reporting Requirements (intent to withdraw).”

McCarville-Kerber said the program received its first notice of noncompliance with CODA requirements in August 2022 after the agency’s accreditation visit, which happens every seven years. DMACC responded in November 2022, reporting changes it made, and was still found in violation of requirements. The college sent another report in May 2023. With this latest CODA response, the college has until November to send information back.

College to study campus facilities

DMACC President Rob Denson said the college had previously communicated to CODA that it plans to begin construction on new dental hygiene facilities in early 2024 and hopefully finish in 2025, but that was before discussions began to create a Masters Facilities Plan for the institution. Now, he plans to meet with the accreditor this month and speak with them about folding the facilities updates into the larger plan.

Members of design firm DLR Group spoke with the board Monday about the Masters Facilities Plan creation process. Its first steps are to visit DMACC campuses and speak with focus groups made up of students, staff, faculty and campus leaders.

This plan, which is expected to be finished in 18 months, will help the college decide on how to most efficiently utilize existing structures and strategically handle tear-down and construction with student needs in mind over the next five to 10 years.

Denson said he’s confident the dental assistant program will keep its accreditation and the college will be able to work with CODA and show its commitment to giving students the best environment possible for learning.

“We are fully accredited at this point, there’s no indication that we don’t have a great education,” Denson said. “So we’re just trying to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s.”

Board members were in favor of seeing how the dental facilities updates could fit with a larger facilities plan.

While she’s confident that the dental assistant program will keep its accreditation, McCarville-Kerber said students will still be able to take classes without accreditation. According to the Iowa Dental Board, in order to register as a dental assistant, one must either work as a trainee in a dental office, have worked as a dental assistant in another state in the past five years, or graduate from an accredited dental assisting program approved by the board.

CODA provides accreditation to 10 community colleges in the state. Marshalltown Community College is also listed as “intent to withdraw.”

“Dental assisting does not require formal education, so we can offer our education in a variety of methods,” McCarville-Kerber said. “We could do it on the credit side or non-credit, but we certainly would not leave our communities without an educator in dental assisting.”


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Brooklyn Draisey
Brooklyn Draisey

Brooklyn Draisey is a Report for America corps member covering higher education. She previously worked for the Quad-City Times and The Gazette covering topics ranging from business to culture.