Licensure for international dentists

Were you educated outside of the U.S. or Canada? Learn how to obtain your license to practice dentistry in the U.S. 

In the United States, the requirements for licensure are set by the state board of dentistry, also known as the board of dental examiners or the licensing board. While requirements vary from state to state, all applicants for dental licensure must meet three basic requirements:

Education
Prospective dentists must graduate from a dental education program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Individuals who possess a dental degree from an institution not accredited by CODA may apply for advanced standing dental education programs. Review the list of CODA-accredited dental education programs.

The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) provides information about applying for these advanced standing education programs for international dental graduates.

Each institution has its own admission criteria, so it is important to contact the educational program you are interested in to request more information.

Written examination
All U.S. licensing jurisdictions require licensure candidates to pass Part I and Part II of the written National Board Dental Examination (NBDE). NBDE Part I and Part II are being discontinued and replaced by the Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE). The INBDE was developed in response to changes in educational curricula and instructional methods and launched August 1, 2020. Learn more about the INBDE.

Clinical examination
States have different clinical examination requirements, so review the Dental Licensure and Continuing Education Map to determine which exam your state requires. Most state boards rely on a regional testing agency to administer these exams, so timing and requirements vary.

Review each state’s specific licensure requirements and contact information.
Guide
Guide
View the exams, credentials, and CE requirements for each state/territory.
Map
Map

Frequently asked questions

What is an accredited dental education program?

Predoctoral and postdoctoral dental education programs recognized as meeting standards set out by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) are accredited in the U.S. The Commission recognizes these programs through a rigorous review process.

What is an advanced standing educational program?

Advanced standing education programs are designed for internationally-trained dentists who wish to get a license to practice dentistry in the U.S. These programs, typically shorter than the traditional 4-year D.M.D. or D.D.S. programs in the U.S., provide the opportunity for the international dental graduate to be matriculated into the D.D.S. or D.M.D. program with advanced standing instead of beginning as a first year dental student. Each dental education program has its own admission process and criteria. It is important to check with each institution for its specific admission requirements.

What is CAAPID?

The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) manages the Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists (CAAPID). This program allows an international dentist to submit a single application and set of credentials, which are then distributed by ADEA to all participating programs designated by the applicant. See participating programs and requirements.

Do I need to take the TOEFL?

Most dental schools require international dentists to successfully complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for admission to their programs. Learn more about the TOEFL.

What are the National Board Dental Examinations (NBDE) Parts I and II? What is the INBDE?
The NBDE Parts I and II are written examinations to assist state boards of dentistry in evaluating candidates for licensure. NBDE Part I was discontinued December 31, 2020 and Part II will be discontinued July 31, 2022.  These two exams are being replaced by the Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE). The INBDE is a written exam that was developed in response to changes in educational curricula and instructional methods, and serves the same purpose as the NBDE Parts I and II. These exams are all administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE).
If I do not have a D.D.S. or D.M.D. from an accredited dental school but completed an advanced dental education program in an accredited U.S. or Canadian program, can I become licensed in the U.S.?

Advanced dental education programs are for individuals who already hold a dental degree. These programs include training in accredited advanced general dentistry or specialty education programs. In the majority of states, completing an advanced dental education program does not satisfy the educational requirements for licensure if the initial dental degree was obtained from a non-accredited program. Most states require that graduates of international dental programs obtain additional general dentistry education at the predoctoral level and receive a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree. Contact the state board of dentistry where you wish to become licensed to verify requirements.