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Preparing for the Exam

Although specific dental licensure requirements vary among jurisdictions, nearly all states require that applicants for initial dental licensure have graduated from a CODA-accredited dental education program, passed a written National Board Dental Examination, and passed a clinical exam administered by the state or by a regional testing agency.

States vary on the eligibility of an internationally trained dentist. All states, except Minnesota (which has different options) require that graduates of non-accredited dental education programs obtain a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited program, or Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC) accredited program, or a state dental board-approved dental education program. Some states may accept an alternative to the four-year dental program and some states cite specific variations in their laws.

To assist state boards in determining the qualifications of dentists who seek licensure, the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE) conducts the National Board Dental Examinations. This Commission, a separate entity from the ADA, includes representatives of dental schools, dental examiners, dental hygiene, dental students, dentists and the public.

The JCNDE launched the Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE) on August 1, 2020 as a replacement for the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Part I and Part II. The NBDE Part I was discontinued December 31, 2020 and the NBDE Part II will be discontinued August 1, 2022. More detailed information related to eligibility and preparation is available on the JCNDE website. Although additional examinations may be required at the state level, all licensing boards use the National Board Dental Examinations to satisfy a major portion of their licensing examination requirements.

In addition to the National Board Dental Examination, most states and the District of Columbia require a written jurisprudence examination, which tests the applicant’s knowledge of that state’s dental practice act. 

Next Step: Clinical Exam
Once a student meets the educational and National Board Dental Examinations requirements, the next step is to take the appropriate clinical dental licensing examination, if such an exam is required for licensure in your state. Clinical exams are developed and administered by dental clinical testing agencies at dental schools. Most states participate in one or more regional examining boards, and a few administer their own exams. Unlike the written examinations, which are fairly standard, clinical exams may vary. Most candidates who do not achieve licensure on their first attempt fail some aspect of the clinical exam.

*Disclaimer: The information provided here may not be accurate or complete when you view it; you should check with specific state licensing authorities to get complete and up-to-date information regarding their licensure requirements. Please select a state on the Dental Licensure Map for additional state licensure requirements.