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20 Tips on AACD Fellowship: Expert Advice from AACD Fellowship Chair

May 31, 2017 by AACD Executive Office

by Bradley J. Olson, DDS, FAACD, AACD Fellowship Chair

Fellowship is the highest level of achievement recognized by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Achieving Fellowship status requires dedication, motivation, and focus. Accredited members did not earn their credential without being determined, talented, goal oriented dental professionals, and Fellowship provides an avenue to feed these outstanding traits. Make no mistake, the challenge is significant as cases are evaluated to Accreditation standards, but the process has become refined and well calibrated.
2017 Accredited Fellows

If you’re considering Fellowship, here are my top 20 tips and insights you should know before you get started:

  1. Know the protocol.

    Take time to review the protocol for Fellowship to be clear about the required cases for dentists and laboratory technicians.

  2. Review your current body of work. 

    See where you stand today relative to the protocol and areas of required cases that need to be fulfilled for your submission, you may be further along than you think.

  3. Set a timetable.

    As in everything else in life, if a task does not get measured and monitored, it does not get done. Fellowship is no different.

     If a task does not get measured and monitored,
    it does not get done.

  4. Shoot everything in RAW.

    Even if you are unsure about the outcome of a case for Fellowship presentation, be sure you have the RAW files so the case is not eliminated for submission.

  5. Understand the photography requirements.

    The photography documentation protocol differs from Accreditation in that there are only 4 required views; a before and after 1:3 anterior smile shot and a before and after 1:3 anterior retracted shot, not the 24 views used for Accreditation. As always, be sure your photography shows your cases in their best light; Accredited members are expected to be excellent photographers.
  6. Document as you go.

    Fellowship submissions require a description of the treatment for each case, not a full written report. Documenting cases as you complete them will save considerable time when it comes to submission.

  7. Take advantage of your prior work.

    You may use your Accreditation cases (five for the dentist and three for the laboratory technician). While there is no guarantee of success, if your Accreditation cases are digital, you may submit them. Three of the cases fall into the mandatory requirements category.

  8. Do a charitable case.

    One case is a Give Back a Smile or charitable case. This is a connection to our charitable foundation, has no treatment requirements, and will be considered successful upon submission.

  9. Present your best cases.

    Successful submissions differ from Accreditation. You need to pass 45 out of 50 cases for dentists and 27 out of 30 for lab techs. Presenting your best cases remains the standard for success.

  1. Bank it.

    There is a case banking system in place for Fellowship.

  2. Think outside of Accreditation cases.

    Look to expand your horizons for submission. Fellowship allows for cases that don’t necessarily fit Accreditation. Four veneer cases, single full resin veneers, and possibly more complex cases are but some examples of potential cases.

  3. Find a Fellowship mentor.

    Success has been consistently linked to candidates that worked with one of our calibrated examiners. Contact our credentialing department to inquire about a mentor. We ask you work with one mentor.

  4. Attend the Fellowship Workshop.

    The workshop reviews the protocol and provides an extensive review of cases that have been successful and those that missed the mark. This is an excellent time to evaluate cases and ask questions about the process and case presentation.

  5. Understand the body of work concept.

    Fellowship differs in submission as all cases are presented and reviewed at one time. Presenting a diversity of work highlights your skills, but be sure these are indeed your finest cases.

  6. Don’t worry, your identity is safe.

    Your submission is completely anonymous. The credentialing department are the only individuals who know your name. After grading, the Fellowship Chair will have access to your identity, but the examiners will not until you have passed.

  7. Include staff, specialists, and family in your journey.

    You likely became Accredited with a fabulous support system, don’t separate from that asset now.

  1. Increase your marketing position.

    Achieving the Accredited Fellow credential will place you first or at the top of your area’s referral on the AACD Find-a-Dentist website.

  2. Know that growth continues.

    Accredited Fellows state that they felt they continued to be inspired and grow professionally through their Fellowship journey. Personal growth is a choice.

  3. Visualize success.

    Regardless of the endeavor: athletic competition, education, or vocation, the most successful individuals pictured themselves standing at the finish line with the achievement fulfilled.

  4. Make the commitment.

    Casual interest will rarely lead you to the final goal.


The AACD supports you in your quest. I wish you the best in your continued pursuit of excellence.


  1. Contemporary Concepts in Smile Design - AACD Guide to Accreditation Criteria

  2. Photographic Documentation and Evaluation in Cosmetic Dentistry - A Guide to Accreditation Photography

  3. Esthetics. Elevated: The AACD Resource Guide

  4. Accreditation Examination Criteria

  5. AACD Dentist Fellowship Requirements and Protocol

  6. AACD Laboratory Fellowship Requirements and Protocol

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