Licensure for dental students

To begin the licensing process, dental students must successfully complete written and clinical assessments based on state or territory requirements.

Dental Student Grad

How to get your initial dental license

Each state dental board sets the clinical assessment requirements for its state. Many states accept multiple pathways to licensure that may include completion of a post-graduate year residency program (PGY-1), passage of an objective structured clinical examination (DLOSCE administered by JCNDE or OSCE administered by NDEB), completion of a portfolio exam (2014 California Portfolio Exam), or passage of a hands-on clinical assessment administered by one of the following three testing agencies: 

CDCA-WREB-CITA (formerly the Commission for Dental Competency Assessments (CDCA), the Western Regional Examining Board (WREB), The Council of Interstate Testing Agencies (CITA))
Central Regional Dental Testing Services (CRDTS)
States Resources for Testing and Assessments (SRTA)

Review the Dental Licensure Dashboard maps to see which exams (CDCA, CITA, CRDTS, SRTA, WREB, DLOSCE) and which type (manikin, patient, OSCE) are accepted by the state in which you intend to practice. Note that Delaware administers its own patient exam and New York requires completion of an approved post-graduate year residency program (PGY-1).

Find contact information for each state and territory.
View the examinations, credentials, and CE requirements for each state/territory.

Preparing for your licensure exam

The same attention to detail that helped you throughout dental school will ensure you are well prepared for your licensure exam. Check with the state dental board for the most current requirements, especially since many states accept manikin and OSCE exams.

Read the candidate guide. Each exam has specific requirements.

Plan ahead and develop a schedule and checklist. Effective time management is key.
See which states accept and which require a post-graduate residency for licensure.
See which states accept objective structured clinical exams for licensure. 
See which states allow students to submit a portfolio for licensure.

What if I am unsuccessful?

Understand the details

Review the information provided by the testing agency to understand which area(s) you failed. Reflect on the experience. 

Get support from your colleagues, school and organized dentistry

Find out if your dental school offers a remediation program. Some such programs are offered to non-alumni, which can be helpful if you have relocated. Determine if remediation is required by the state.

Connect with the state or local dental society to find the name of your new dentist committee representative. These committees often assist recent graduates with the licensure process and may offer practical advice. The local society can also help to explore options for employment while preparing to retake the exam. Although practicing dentistry is not yet an option, employment opportunities are available in the practice environment.

The ADA can also be a great resource during this time and offers a non-practicing membership committee for people with a dental degree but no license. Explore ADA for Dental Students and the ADA New Dentist CommitteeThe American Student Dental Association (ASDA) and American Dental Education Association (ADEA) also have resources to help with success.The Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations and ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure can also offer guidance.

Retake the exam

In most cases, the best option is to retake the exam. Some states accept more than one clinical assessment. For scheduling convenience, traveling may be necessary to take the exam. The candidate should review the criteria for an appeal and determine if it is applicable.