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Licensure Overview

Licensure is a process every dentist must go through at least once during his or her professional life in order to practice dentistry. In the United States, licensure requirements vary from state to state and all applicants must meet three basic requirements: education, written examination, and clinical examination. The state dental board is the appropriate agency to contact for specific information about licensure requirements, the state dental practice act, or other licensure-related information. The information in this section is a brief summary of important facts to help dentists and dental students become more familiar with terms used and more informed about the licensure process.

State Dental Licensure Requirements for U.S. Dentists

In the United States, the final authority on licensure requirements is the individual state. Though requirements vary from state to state, all applicants for dental licensure must meet three basic requirements; an education requirement, a written examination requirement and a clinical examination requirement.

Review the State Dental Licensure Requirements for U.S. Dentists section for more information.

State Boards of Dentistry

The state board of dentistry (also known as board of dental examiners) is an agency of state government created by the state legislature. This agency governs the qualifications for and the practice of dentistry within the state. The board’s authority is limited to that granted by the state legislature and typically includes:

  1. establishment of qualifications for licensure,
  2. issuance of licenses to qualified individuals,
  3. establishment of standards of practice and conduct,
  4. taking disciplinary action against those who engage in misconduct, and
  5. promulgation of rules to enable the board to perform its duties.

The state dental board is the appropriate agency to contact for the most current and up-to-date information about licensure requirements, the state dental practice act, or other licensure-related information.

Individual state board information can be found on the American Association of Dental Boards (AADB) Website. Choose your state of interest for specific licensure information.

While the American Dental Association recognizes and supports the state's right to regulate dental licensure, it has adopted policies on licensure issues, including freedom of movement for dentists, increased standardization of clinical licensing examinations, specialty licensure and the use of human subjects in clinical examinations.

The ADA developed the document, “Ethical Considerations When Using Human Subjects/Patients in the Examination Process” as an educational tool for dental students and licensure candidates. It serves to promote awareness of the potential ethical dilemmas faced by candidates during the examination process and to assist in maintaining the welfare of the patient as the profession’s paramount concern. The document reflects existing ADA policy supporting the elimination of the use of human subjects in the clinical examination process with the exception of the Curriculum Integrated Format (CIF) within dental schools.