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State Licensure for US Dentist

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.

Education Requirement

The educational requirement in nearly all states is a DDS or DMD degree from a university-based dental education program accredited by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation (ADA CODA). References to accreditation in states’ licensure provisions relate to the CODA and no other agency. The CODA directly accredits programs in the United States, and indirectly accredits dental education programs in Canada through a reciprocal agreement with the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC). Graduates of accredited U.S. and Canadian dental education programs are eligible for licensure in the United States.

Written Examination Requirement

All U.S. licensing jurisdictions require evidence that a candidate for licensure has passed Parts I and II of the written National Board Dental Examinations. Each examination is composed exclusively of multiple-choice test items. Part I is a comprehensive examination covering the basic biomedical sciences, dental anatomy and ethics testlets. Part II is a comprehensive examination covering clinical dental subjects, including patient management.

The agency responsible for the administration of National Board Dental Examinations is:

The Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations
American Dental Association
211 East Chicago Avenue, Suite 600
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2637
800.232.1694

Clinical Examination Requirement

Candidates for dental licenses in most U.S. licensing jurisdictions are subject to a clinical examination requirement1. Each state board of dentistry establishes its clinical examination requirement. Most state boards of dentistry rely on a regional testing agency to administer a clinical examination. A regional agency, also called a regional board, is formed when a group of state boards jointly develop and administer a clinical examination. Five such regional agencies currently conduct examinations used by all but four licensing jurisdictions. For information about which states are members of which testing agency, visit the clinical testing agency membership page.

1New York does not require a clinical examination, but requires applicants to complete an accredited postgraduate dental education program of at least one year in length (PGY-1). California, Connecticut, Minnesota and Washington offer licensure applicants the option of completing an accredited postgraduate education program, at least one year in length, in lieu of a clinical examination.

Additional Licensure Requirements

Candidates are eligible to apply for a dental license once the educational, written examination and clinical examination requirements are met. In addition, state boards may have additional requirements, such as:

  • a minimum age of 18 or 21 years old;
  • good moral character;
  • examination on the state practice act (jurisprudence);
  • proof of malpractice insurance;
  • current Basic Life Support (BLS) or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification;
  • specialty degree from an ADA accredited program;
  • specialty examination results or certificate;
  • background check;
  • fingerprint verification;
  • interview;
  • documentation of hepatitis B vaccination; or
  • courses in infection control, radiation safety or other specified topics.