State Licensure for US Dentists
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.
The educational requirement in nearly all states is a DDS or DMD degree from a university-based dental education program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation
(CODA). References to accreditation in states’ licensure provisions relate to CODA and no other agency. CODA accredits programs in the United States, and recognizes 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, as determined by the state dental board or licensing agency.
Written Examination Requirement
All U.S. licensing jurisdictions require evidence that a candidate for licensure has passed a written National Board Dental Examination. The agency responsible for the administration of National Board Dental Examinations is the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE).
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. The INBDE combines content from several disciplines and was created in response to the change in educational curricula and instructional methods in dental schools. The INBDE serves the same purpose as the NBDE Part I and Part II examinations, which is to assist state boards of dentistry in evaluating candidates for licensure.
For more information, contact:
The Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations
American Dental Association
211 East Chicago Avenue, Suite 600
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2637
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. Four such regional agencies currently conduct examinations used by all but four licensing jurisdictions. For information about the clinical testing agencies, visit the Licensure Information for Dental Students web 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, Colorado, Connecticut, Minnesota and Ohio offer licensure applicants the option of completing an accredited postgraduate education program, at least one year in length, in lieu of a clinical examination. Washington has an option for PGY1 completed in that state in specific settings. Delaware requires completion of a PGY1 and a state-specific 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 a CODA accredited program;
- specialty examination results or certificate;
- background check;
- fingerprint verification;
- documentation of hepatitis B vaccination; or
- courses in infection control, radiation safety or other specified topics.