Dental licensure is the process whereby a state grants someone the legal authority to practice dentistry in that state. Typically, fourth-year dental students complete specific requirements to obtain their dental license.   

Licensure requirements

Each state sets its own licensure requirements. Use this state map to find out what methods your state accepts, or visit your state’s dental board. There is no universal licensure exam, which means 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 Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
  2. Written
    All licensing boards use the National Board Dental Examinations (NDBE) to satisfy their written exam requirements. This multiple-choice written exam is developed by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE).

    Since 2016, the JCNDE has been in the process of combining Parts I and II of the NDBE into one exam: the INDBE, or the Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE). The transition from a two-part exam to the integrated exam will be complete as of July 31, 2022. Find more information on the transition timeline on the JCNDE website.
  3. Clinical

    There are five testing agencies that administer clinical exams on manikins and live patients. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many states now permit students to take all or part of their clinical exam requirements on a manikin. Review the licensure laws and regulations for your state on the state board website. from the individual state board websites for real-time information about which exams are accepted where licensure is sought.

    ASDA is a leader in dental licensure reform. We are committed to eliminating the use of live human patients in obtaining dental licensure. You can find more information and ways to support ASDA’s efforts in our Licensure Reform page.  

    In June 2020, the Joint Commission on Dental Examinations released the Dental Licensure Objective Structured Examination (DLOSCE) as an alternative to the live-patient clinical exam. The DLOSCE is comprised of multiple questions requiring candidates to use their clinical skills to successfully complete one or more dental problem solving tasks. As of June 2021, six states permit the use of the DLOSCE. In some states, passage of the DLOSCE only partially fulfills the clinical examination requirement for licensure. Visit your state dental board website for specific details, clarifications and updated policies.

Study Materials

NBDE Reprints: ASDA sells released examinations with actual questions from the NBDE. ASDA members receive a discount.

Dental Decks: ASDA members receive a 10% discount on NBDE and INBDE dental decks. Find information in ASDA Member Benefits.   


Find Dental Licensure posts written by ASDA members.

ASDA Dental Licensure Blog Posts