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State Licensure Spotlight: Illinois

Dr. Ben YouelDr. Ben Youel, Illinois '13
2013-14 chair, Leadership Development Work Group

This content was originally published in the October 2013 issue of Advocacy Brief.

To apply for my initial Illinois license I had to satisfy three requirements:

  1. Earn a dental degree (DDS or DMD) from a school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
  2. Pass the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Parts I & II administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE).
  3. Successfully complete a clinical examination administered by one of the following regional testing services:
    1. The Central Regional Dental Testing Service, Inc. (CRDTS) 
    2. The Southern Regional Testing Agency, Inc. (SRTA)*
    3. The Western Regional Examining Board (WREB) 
    4. The North East Regional Board (NERB)*
    5. The Council of Interstate Testing Agencies, Inc. (CITA)*

*Note that SRTA, NERB and CITA administer the same exam. They administer the ADEX exam and it is developed by the American Board of Dental Examiners, Inc. (ADEX). 

Let’s break down each of these requirements:

Earning a dental degree: This step is rarely a surprise to dental students. It should be very clear that you need a DDS or DMD to practice dentistry in any state. Go to school. Take your tests. Graduate with that important piece of paper.

Passing the NBDE: Some students are unaware of the standardized tests that await them in dental school. I had classmates who thought their Prometric days were over after the DAT. Sorry to burst any bubbles, but dental students must pass the National Board Dental Examination. Currently there are two parts to the NBDE. NBDE Part I tests basic sciences and Part II tests the dental clinical knowledge. Since 2009 the JCNDE has been working on integrating NBDE Part I & Part II into one exam. The Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE) is expected to be unveiled no sooner than 2017.

Completing a clinical exam: Many students don’t know that most states require a clinical licensure examination in order to apply for your first dental license. In Illinois, the exams administered by all five major regional testing agencies are accepted. So in my fourth year I could have taken a clinical test administered by any of those five testing agencies. I took the CRDTS examination because that was the one being offered at my dental school (the University of Illinois at Chicago). I took CRDTS in two parts: (1) fixed prosthodontics and endodontics on manikin teeth in the fall and (2) restorative dentistry and periodontics on human subjects in the spring. Once I had a passing score I was ready to submit my application for an Illinois dental license.


Applying for my Illinois license: Since each state’s Board of Dentistry issues dental licenses, applications must be submitted to the state government. In Illinois, you need to submit your dental license application to the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The application is available on the IDFPR website. Apart from biographical information, it asks for proof of National Board scores, proof of a regional dental examination, proof of legal name change (if your last name has recently changed due to marriage, divorce, etc.), certificate of education (my dental school filled this out and sent it in separately) and a $250 application fee. We applied for our Illinois controlled substances license simultaneously (which required another form and a $5 fee). My $255 check was cashed in about a week. My dental license and controlled substance licenses were sent to me six weeks later. The earlier you can submit your application, the better. However, my dental school sent in all my class’ certificate of education forms together. They held these forms until just before our graduation day to allow for students to make one remediation attempt at the clinical exam. Therefore, I gained only a minor advantage by submitting all my paperwork before graduation day.

Gaining an Illinois state dental license is not as straight forward as one might expect. There are a number of players involved and it takes some organization to get the correct paperwork together. Even so, the paperwork headache is minor. And I have to admit, it’s a pretty exciting when your actual dental license arrives in the mail.

Find out about licensure in other states by visiting our licensure map.

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