State Licensure Requirements For US Dentists

Although requirements vary from one state to the next, there are three basic requirements that all dental licensure applicants must meet; an education requirement, a clinical examination requirement, and written examination requirement.

The Education Requirement

In almost all states the educational requirement is a DMD or DDS degree from a university-based dental education program that the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) has accredited. References in the states’ licensure provisions for accreditation relate only to the CODS and no other agencies. The CODA accredits programs directly in the United States and accredits dental education programs within Canada indirectly through a reciprocal agreement that is with the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC). Graduates of accredited dental education programs in U.S. and Canada are eligible in the United States for licensure.

The Written Examination Requirement

All licensing jurisdictions in the U.S. require evidence that a licensure candidate has passed both Parts I and II of the National Board Dental written examinations. Each examination is comprised of multiple-choice items exclusively. Both tests are comprehensive examinations. Part I covers ethics, dental anatomy, and basic biomedical sciences. Part II covers clinical dental subjects, which include patient management.

The National Board Dental Examinations are administered by the following agency:

The Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations
American Dental Association
211 East Chicago Avenue, Suite 600
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2637

The Clinical Examination Requirements

In a majority of U.S. licensing jurisdiction, there is a clinical examination requirement that dental licenses candidates are subject to. The clinical examination requirement is established by each state’s board of dentistry. Some state boards rely on a clinical examination being administered by a regional testing agency. A regional agency, or regional board, gets formed whenever multiple state boards make the joint decision for developing and administering a clinical examination. Currently, there are five of these regional agencies conducting examinations that are used by all except four licensing jurisdictions. Visit the clinical testing agency’s membership page for information on which states are associated with which testing agencies.

A clinical examination is not required by New York, but applicants are required to have completed an accredited postgraduate dental education program that is one year in length (PGY-1) at least. Ohio, Minnesota, Colorado, and California offer the option to licensure applicants of completing an accredited postgraduate educational program that is one year in length at least, in lieu of passing a clinical examination. There is an option in Washington for completing a PGY1 in specific settings in that state. A state-specific clinical examination and completing a PGY1 is required by Delaware.

The Additional Licensure Requirements

After the educational, clinical examination and written examinations are met, candidates are eligible to apply for their dental license. According to the, State boards might have additional requirements as well, including:

  • good moral character
  • a minimum age of 21 or 18 years old
  • state practice act (jurisprudence) examination
  • proof of having malpractice insurance
  • specialty degree from a program that is CODA accredited
  • current cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or Basic Life Support (BLS) certification
  • background check
  • specialty examination certification or results
  • interview
  • fingerprint verification
  • hepatitis B vaccination documentation
  • courses in radiation safety, infection control, or other specified topics.