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Dental licensure testing agencies move to manikin-, computer-based examinations amid COVID-19 pandemic

Final decisions remain with state boards as to licensure process

April 20, 2020

By Kimber Solana

Clinical test administration agencies will soon offer manikin-based licensing examinations for dental students as an alternative to their patient-based examinations.

Along with the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations’ Dental Licensure Objective Structured Clinical Examinations, or DLOSCE, launching in June, these non-patient options are providing state dental boards alternatives when addressing the public health concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
   
All testing agencies have stepped up to coordinate efforts to move towards exams that utilize manikin-based or computer-based examinations and eliminates human subjects in some of their models, said Dr. Robert B. Zena, president of the American Association of Dental Boards, in an April 15 message to its members.
   
“Some of the testing entities have already officially announced the changes according to their own regulatory process,” Dr. Zena said in the message. This includes the American Board of Dental Examiners, which has released their official announcement that the board is readying its new exam for summer 2020.

“This will enable [the Commission on Dental Competency Assessment] and [Council of Interstate Testing Agencies Inc.] to have this capability shortly,” he said. “[Southern Regional Testing Agency Inc.] communicated that they also will have their manikin-based exam ready during the same time frame. These tests are dependent on logistics such as the supply of testing materials needed. [Central Regional Dental Testing Services, Inc.] and [Western Regional Examining Board] have also been working very hard towards this objective.”

“In response to the coronavirus pandemic, SRTA has approved the release of its manikin-based restorative dentistry module, using cutting-edge dental products that are highly effective in simulating a live patient’s dental procedures such as fillings, crowns and bridges,” said George Martin, SRTA president, in a news release.

According to CRDTS, it has spent the few last years developing all-manikin examination procedures as an option for the periodontal and restorative procedures traditionally administered on a patient. It has already offered manikin procedures for the endodontic and prosthodontic sections of its dental examination.
   
The CDCA, in a news release, announced that its non-patient-based restorative examination, when compared to the ADEX patient-based exams, showed that the “simulated tooth identified the same critical deficiencies in skill typically revealed by the treatment of natural teeth.”

The Joint Commission indicates that the DLOSCE is comprehensive in its assessment of clinical judgment, including content in the following areas: restorative dentistry; prosthodontics; oral pathology; pain management and temporomandibular disorders; periodontics; oral surgery; endodontics; orthodontics; medical emergencies; and prescriptions.

The Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations’ DLOSCE is a professionally developed, content-valid examination built specifically for clinical licensure purposes that assesses candidates’ clinical judgment and skills using sophisticated 3D models, without the need to involve patients or manikins.

About 6,500 dental students are expected to graduate this summer.

“Of course, it is the final decision of state boards as to how they deal with the licensure process in their state per existing laws and regulations,” Dr. Zena said in the communication to AADB members. “Our state boards need to be cognizant of the changes going forward so that they make informed decisions.”