The Commission on Dental Accreditation recently gave Northern Arizona University something to smile about.

It awarded NAU’s Dental Hygiene Program full American Dental Association accreditation with commendations and a non-reporting status until 2013.

“We are thrilled to obtain this accreditation,” said Denise Helm, chair of the Dental Hygiene Program.

In April, the commission made a site visit to NAU, and its program met the108 required standards. Accreditation was awarded in July.

“The site visit and review is a rigorous process and very few programs receive commendations,” Helm said.

The program received two commendations: one for the diversity of the clinical enrichment experience that it provides, and another for its exceptional library staff and available learning resources.

Helm said having accreditation affects students because in order to work in the dental hygiene field, they must take a national and state licensing board examination that they are only permitted to take if they graduate from an accredited program.

The commission’s foremost criterion is that program graduates are competent in assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating community-based oral health programs including health promotion and disease prevention activities.

NAU offers its dental hygiene students clinical internships at North Country Community Health Center, the Yavapai/Apache Clinic and at the Hopi Health Center.

“We can offer great outreach programs thanks to the support we receive from the Del E. Webb Corp. and the John and Sophie Ottens Foundation,” Helm said.

The program was also judged on its laboratory effectiveness and equipment.

NAU’s program, which includes one year of prerequisite course work and three years of dental hygiene, is committed to excellence achieved thr