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The Issues
Obtaining Licensure


Licensure is the process whereby a state grants dentists the legal authority to practice dentistry.

licensure map

Click the map to access each state's licensing board.


Licensure Requirements

Each state sets its own licensure requirements (use this state map to navigate). There is no universal licensure exam (i.e. getting licensed in your state doesn't guarantee the ability to practice in another state). Although specifics vary, all states have three requirements:

  1. Educational
    All states’ educational requirements are satisfied by graduation from a dental school accredited by the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation.
  2. Written
    All licensing boards use the National Board Dental Examinations to satisfy a major portion of their written exam requirements. The National Board Examination Parts I and II are developed and administered by the ADA’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. The actual exams are conducted by regional or state examining boards.
  3. Clinical
    Clinical exam requirements vary. Most candidates who do not achieve licensure on their first attempt fail in some aspect of the clinical exam. Currently, only Delaware administers their own clinical exam. The remaining boards contract that responsibility to one of the five regional testing agencies: States accept results of examinations administered by one or more testing agencies of which they are not a member. Review the licensure laws and regulations from the individual state board websites for real-time information about which exams are accepted where licensure is sought.

Licensure for International Students

Many dentists and dental students educated outside the United States and Canada wish to obtain a dental license to practice in the U.S. To become licensed to do so, internationally-trained dentists must follow different steps. Read more on ASDA's Tips for International Dental Students webpage. The ADA also has resources for international dentists.

Resources for obtaining licensure

ADA Pacific Dental Services Heartland Dental


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