Continuing Dental Education Provider.

The top 5 most overlooked requirements of the ADA Continuing Education Provider Recognition (CERP) Program

If you are a Continuing Dental Education Provider who has been approved to deliver American Dental Association Continuing Education programs, congratulations!  You have navigated through the process of pre-application, demonstrated your ability to provide quality, science based continuing education programs, and have successfully completed your application recognition. That’s no small task!  If you are looking to begin the application and approval process, you are embarking on a process that typically takes between 7 to 12 months, and many hours of effort to complete.  Being aware of approval process steps, as well as utilizing professional management tools to help automate your program, can both smooth out the approval process and streamline the actual management of your program.  This Blog will highlight 5 areas of the provider certification and delivery process most overlooked by individuals, as they embark on this journey.

FIRST THINGS FIRST:  What is the ADA CERP Program? 

The Commission for Continuing Education Provider Recognition (CCERP) is an assembly of Dental Professionals within the American Dental Association, tasked with providing and maintaining standards for Continuing Education for dental professionals.  As a part of the CCERP’s business charter, the committee is tasked with vetting and approving businesses and individuals to provide continuing Education courses on all aspects of Dental Science, to help ensure a minimum threshold of competency and quality for Dental Continuing Education classwork.  Continuing Dental Education (CDE) providers who have been approved to provide CERP sanctioned Continuing Education classes are authorized to award records of individual participation to attendees who complete coursework, which count towards that individuals’ yearly Continuing Education requirements.

Businesses and individuals who have achieved ADA CCERP certification status perform an important service in the Continuing Dental Education ecosystem by providing quality accredited certification courses, and awarding CE Credits to Dental professionals who complete those courses.  ADA approved CE providers that provide this coursework will benefit from the association and recognition that comes from the American Dental Association, and oftentimes are able to grow out profitable Continuing Education programs for Dental professionals.  Because of this it’s no wonder that currently the ADA CCERP program contains over 425 accredited education providers, with more being added each year.

How do I apply for acceptance into the ADA CERP Program?

The American Dental Association maintains a website devoted to the CERP program, where materials and program requirements are hosted.  You can visit that website here (  Pre-Application Determination of Eligibility forms can be submitted to the ADA at any time, with the commission notifying the applicant usually within 8 weeks as to if the applicant is eligible for CERP Recognition. Applications for recognition are reviewed by the commission twice a year, with the following dates being the next program cycle:






New applicants are eligible for an initial recognition period of two years. If approved, providers will be eligible to apply for continued recognition at the end of that Initial Recognition term.  Continued recognition can be granted by the committee for periods of either 2, 3 or 4 years based on the level of compliance, and complaint history of the provider.

Now that we understand the basics, lets take a look the 5 most overlooked requirments with receiving Provider Recognition from the ADA?

  1. It’s going to take a village…

You are required to form an advisory committee as the primary driver of our CE program, that will assume oversight duties of your program in an independent and unbiased manner.  The role of this committee is to provide direction and peer review for the providers program, and a “majority of the advisory committee must be dentists who are independent from other responsibilities for the provider.”  The advisory committee should include objective representatives of the intended audience, including the members of the dental team for which the courses are offered.

  1. To ensure lasting success into the future, put in the effort to design your program NOW

Written plans, procedures, reports, evaluations and assessments – plan on capturing every aspect of your accreditation program in writing, to allow you demonstrate, explain, assess and revise various elements of your accreditation program as it matures.  By taking the time to develop these elements now, they will help to guide your program as it matures.

Naturally, as a CE provider your focus will be on developing and delivering the best possible courses, that contain the best scientific based education for your attendees.  But perhaps the most often overlooked element of the CE process is in the actual management of that process itself.  Standards XI: Administration, and XIV: Recordkeeping – these requirements can be easy to gloss over, but can become the most difficult elements to realistically implement for a long term CE Course.  Utilizing a tool like SimpleCert’s Certificate Management System can provide you with an organizational and operation platform to build your program around from the very start. 

As a part of day to day operations of your approved CDE program, you are obligated and responsible for “Ensuring that an adequate number of qualified personnel are assigned to manage the program.”  Increased headcount can often lead to increased complexity, and cost.  Designing your program from the start to be as automated and efficient as possible by utilizing SimpleCert, will help to reduce future staffing overhead you are required to provide as your program grows.

  1. Think Educational, NOT Promotional

CDE Providers wear many hats during the course of a typical day, not the least of which involves working to ensure the success of their own business.  As business owners, we’re always in the mindset of finding ways to elevate our business; but when it comes to offering ADA CERP sanctioned courses it’s imperative to leave all business related promotional elements outside of any coursework or class.  CE Providers must “assume responsibility for ensuring the content quality and scientific integrity of all continuing dental education activities. Educational objectives, content development, and selection of educational methods and instructors must be conducted independent of commercial interest,” and also “must ensure that continuing dental education activities promote improvements in oral healthcare and not a specific drug, device, service or technique of a commercial interest”.   As a provider, remember that your responsibility lies in providing the highest quality educational resources possible – independent of any other business engagements you or your business maybe connected to.

  1. WAIT.  I thought I had to provide Certificates of Completion as part of being a provider?

Technically, you do need to provide certificates to attendees.  But this is another important distinction that is often overlooked at first by applicants.    By becoming a certificated Continuing Education provider, your responsibility is to provide CE coursework to professionals who have ALREADY completed their own heavy lift of becoming a certificated Dental Professional – you are not providing that initial Dental Professional certification itself.  Just like how you are not providing initial certification, the “certificates” that you provide to your attendees cannot look like Certificates or Diplomas, that would imply any level of initial graduate level certification.   A read of Standard XIV RecordKeeping, provides this clarification:  “Providers must issue accurate records of individual participation to attendees.  Documentation must not resemble a diploma or certificate. Documentation must not attest, or appear to attest to specific skill, or specialty or advanced educational status. Providers must design such documentation to avoid misinterpretation by the public or professional colleagues.”  So in your design, create your template to look good with your company logo, etc – it just cannot be perceived or look to be a diploma, or other graduate certification.  You are distributing records of individual participation.

The following is a list of what must be contained on records of individual participation:

  • The name of the CDE provider
  • The name of the participant
  • The date(s), location and duration of the activity
  • The title of the activity and/or specific subjects
  • The title of each individual CDE course the participant has attended or successfully completed as part of a large dental meeting or other similar activity (and number of credits awarded for each)
  • The educational methods used (e.g., lecture, videotape, clinical participation, electronically mediated)
  • The number of credit hours awarded (excluding breaks and meals)
  • The recognition status of the provider, through the use of the authorized recognition statement, and, whenever feasible (given space considerations) the use of the ADA CERP logo in conjunction with the authorized statement.
  • Notice of opportunity to file complaints.

Similar to item number 2 above, a lot of times CDE providers will gloss over the process of creating and distributing records of individual participation at the beginning, but will quickly become overwhelmed by the process and management of this key requirement.  It’s a far better approach to adopt a professional Certificate Management System like SimpleCert, to automate this required process and provide scalability right from the start.

And just remember should anyone ask, you provide records of individual participation, NOT certificates as a CDE provider 😊

  1. Recordkeeping, the nightmare of mail merges and missing Excel spreadsheets

When you become an ADA recognized CDE provider, you agree to keep records of all attendees you have awarded records of participation to, for a period of 6 years past the class date.  Let’s take a step back and just let that sink in for a moment.  For every class that you provide, for up to 6 years, you technically need to provide a process to provide reporting, look up an individuals’ history, and provide a method to demonstrate reporting and re-send records of individual participation to people upon request.  For a provider of even modest activity, you can easily see how this could grow to become an untenable process, one that will only become more cumbersome over time.  This is probably the biggest, most overlooked aspect of maintaining CDE status.  By far, the best way to avoid this pitfall is to design your process from the very beginning to incorporate SimpleCert as your Certificate Management System.  SimpleCert automatically stores every record of participation you create, which becomes infinitely searchable as a part of your ever-growing database, provides records access notification, and gives you a permanent platform to pull reporting, and properly manage your program.

It’s important to note that as a CDE provider you are not required to provide attendance reporting back to the ADA, as a part of your annual report.  But at any time and at its sole discretion, the ADA can ask you to provide these records. And again, you should expect that a portion of your attendance population will require assistance in locating records from you as they manage their own certification requirements.  With one program and a little advance prep, you can easily configure a solution that will provide this framework and automatically scale with you, as your business grows.

Being an ADA Continuing Education provider can be a rewarding, fun and profitable venture.  Applying for, achieving, and maintaining that coveted Approved Provider status can be a lengthy process.  As you’ve read above, by putting processes in place from the very beginning, and incorporating professional tools that can automate and manage your program, can help to ensure that the day to day work of the program does not overwhelm you or your business.  Sign up for a free SimpleCert account today, and discover how SimpleCert can automate your program.

Finally, one last bit of advice:  Always remember that it is your actual certification program, and never one specific course or class that you offer, which will allow you to achieve and maintain CERP status.  This race is a marathon, not a sprint – and all the more reason to invest the time now in developing a curriculum, and an efficient management process, that will stick with you for the long haul.  Best of luck! And please feel free to contact us at if you have further questions.

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