Once you complete your Graduate degree you need to get licensed before you can work as a dental professional. Each State has their own licensing requirements, though there are five regional licensing boards to which you can apply as well, which let you work within several States.
Whether you’re planning to start your own clinical practice, or work a as dental professional in another capacity, you need to know what the requirements are for getting your dental license. Below, we show you what you need to get licensed, and get practicing.
Graduate Degree Completion
The most important step on the road to getting licensed to work as a practitioner of dental medicine is the completion of your Graduate dental degree. This comes in two forms: the DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) and the DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery). These degrees are identical, but the institution from which you take your degree decides which of the two they will confer on you upon completion of your degree.
Once you have acquired either of these degrees, you can acquire a license in most States. 17 States specifically require that you undertake a specialization before they will grant you a license to practice in State, but this is the exception to the rule.
There are nine recognized forms of specialization, as approved by the ADA (American Dental Association), and they all require different training and further education. Most of them, however, involve undertaking a residency program which is completed through an institution where you are required to actively practice (this usually takes place in a hospital). Most residencies are 1 to 2 years in duration.
Another State level requirement for acquiring a license to practice dental medicine is the taking of the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE), in addition to clinical examination in the State in which you intend to practice. The NBDE consists of two parts, and is administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations.
The NBDE is designed to discern an individual’s level of knowledge and competence in the biomedical sciences, dental anatomy, dental practices, and dental procedures. The clinical portion of the examination is carried out by a regional clinical testing agency.
The exception to this practice is the State of New York. New York requires each person applying for a dental license to undergo the residency normally reserved for garnering a specialization in lieu of taking a clinical exam. Far from being a detriment, this is a great way to get immediate clinical experience.
Other States possess their own requirements for clinical examinations, and what constitutes a clinical exam varies widely. Delaware, Florida, Nevada, and the Virgin Islands are all noted for having quite specific requirements for their clinical examination portion of the licensing test. It is always worth your time to check out exactly what the requirements are for licensing in the State or region in which you intend to practice.
Age and Background
There are age requirements in effect to ensure that underage practitioners cannot become legally licensed to practice in the U.S. – though the number of individuals who try to become so is quite small. The standard age required to undertake the licensing test is 18, though some States set the bar at 21.
It is also customary for a State or regional licensing board to perform a background check on individuals applying to acquire a license to practice dental medicine. This is largely a criminal background check, and the bond is the same as for most job applications.
In addition to the above requirements, those undertaking the licensing application must take Basic Life and Support (BLS) and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) courses. BLS and CPR training is available for any individual 18 or over.
Once you successfully meet all of these requirements you can undertake the dental licensing test, and begin your journey toward a fantastic career as a dental professional.