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ADA, ADEA and ASDA Release Groundbreaking Report Supporting Modernization of Dental Licensure Process

October 01, 2018

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The American Dental Association (ADA), American Dental Education Association (ADEA) and American Student Dental Association (ASDA) released a groundbreaking task force report today supporting the modernization of the dental licensure process. The report is the culmination of over two years of research, discussion and collaboration among the organizations, which have teamed up to form the Coalition for Modernizing Dental Licensure. This Coalition involves the full continuum of the dental profession, from students to educators to practitioners. 

“Ensuring patient safety and that each dentist meets professional standards for practice are the critical underpinnings of the dental licensure process,” said Joseph P. Crowley, D.D.S., ADA president. “This report and the Coalition’s ongoing efforts call upon state dental boards to amend and modernize their licensure requirements.”  

In the United States, requirements to gain a dental license vary widely from state to state, though all applicants must meet three basic requirements: graduation from an accredited dental education program, a passing grade on the National Board written examinations, and a passing grade on a clinical examination.

State dental boards oversee the licensure process. The task force report addresses two priority concerns with the licensure process in many states. The first is the use of the single encounter, procedure-based examination on patients as part of the licensure examination. The three organizations are concerned that treating a single patient just one time does not lead to an accurate reflection of the broad set of skills and knowledge expected of a dentist, and also poses ethical challenges for test-takers, dental schools and the profession. Additionally, a single encounter, procedure-based examination may not be in the best interest of patients who participate in the process. These exams have a narrow focus, sometimes in lieu of comprehensive care. Regulatory bodies in other health professions have removed the actual performance of procedures on a patient during the licensure examination process.

The second concern highlighted in the report is licensure portability. The majority of students at over half of the country’s dental schools do not practice in the same state where they were educated. For students in states with restrictive licensure policies, the cost of licensure in another state is often extremely expensive and unnecessarily burdensome. A similar burden exists for the over 10,000 active licensed dentists who moved across state lines between 2011 and 2016.

“There are much better ways to handle licensure, and we have only to look to every other health profession to demonstrate that,” said R.L. Monty MacNeil, D.D.S., M.Dent.Sc., chair of the ADEA Board of Directors. “Dentistry is also an outlier in the lengths dentists have to go to if they want to move across state lines and provide care. It’s just time we fix this.”
The Coalition for Modernizing Dental Licensure calls upon state dental boards to amend their licensure requirements to eliminate single encounter, procedure-based examinations on patients. The Coalition also calls upon them to allow for increased licensure portability and to work at the national level to establish a common core of dentist credentials for licensure that can serve as a basis for licensure compacts among states. 

“As future dental professionals, students hold themselves to the highest ethical standards,” said ASDA President Roopali Kulkarni. “We are committed to working together and with the dental boards to modernize the process of dental licensure in order to protect our patients and profession."    

The Report of the Task Force on Assessment of Readiness for Practice can be viewed at

About the ADA

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 163,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website

About the American Dental Education Association
The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) is The Voice of Dental Education. Our mission is to lead institutions and individuals in the dental education community to address contemporary issues influencing education, research and the delivery of oral health care for the overall health and safety of the public. Our members include all 76 U.S. and Canadian dental schools, more than 1,000 allied and advanced dental education programs, 66 corporations and more than 20,000 individuals. Our activities encompass a wide range of research, advocacy, faculty development, meetings and communications, including the esteemed Journal of Dental Education®, as well as the dental school application services ADEA AADSAS®, ADEA PASS®, ADEA DHCAS® and ADEA CAAPID®. For more information, visit

About the American Student Dental Association
The American Student Dental Association is the largest national organization that protects and advances the rights, interests and welfare of dental students and predentals. Representing 92 percent of all dental students, ASDA introduces members to lifelong involvement in organized dentistry and provides services, information, education, representation and advocacy. For more information, visit Connect with ASDA on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.