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Dental: Licensing and Certification for Dental Professionals



In the United States, all practicing dentists must be licensed, a process controlled by individual states, pursuant to their state boards of dentistry. Although the specific requirements vary per state, all states have basic requirements for education and examinations.

First, a student must graduate from an American Dental Association accredited dental school with a DDS or DMD degree. Next, the prospective dentist must pass the written portions of the National Board Dental Examination. Most states also require a clinical examination.

In addition to these education and examination requirements, states may impose additional requirements, such as minimum age, proof of insurance, and background checks. The American Association of Dental Boards maintains a listing of and links to each state dental board.

In addition to licensure requirements, dental professionals can enhance their professional training through additional Board certifications. General Dentists can be certified by the American Board of General Dentistry through post-doctoral education programs and examinations. Dentists can also complete post-graduate work in specialty fields such as orthodontics or pediatric dentistry, and then take exams to become board certified in that specialty.

Dental Hygienists

In order to acquire certification in this field, the candidate first must attend and graduate from a dental hygiene school. The institute should be approved by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Dental Association (ADA). In many cases, dental hygiene programs grant an associate degree. However, some specialty schools also offer a certificate, a bachelor's degree, or a master's degree.

In order for a professional to practice in a private office, they usually must obtain at least an associate degree or certificate in dental hygiene. The professional often must possess a bachelor's or master's degree to research, teach, or work in clinical practice or in public or school health programs.

On graduating from dental hygiene school, the candidate is required to pass the written National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and a clinical licensing exam for the state in which they wish to practice. For the most part, dental hygienists must renew their license annually.

For dental assistants, not all states require licensure or registration of dental assistants. However those that do usually provide a written or practical exam. Most in this profession learn through on-the-job training programs. While the duties of the position are highly regulated in most areas, some states let the dental assistant carry out any task delegated to them by the dentist.

Certification for Dental Assistants, sometimes called "Registered Dental Assistants," can be earned through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), which offers exams and certifications for Certified Dental Assistants (CDA), Certified Orthodontic Assistants (COA), and Certified Preventive Dental Assistants (CPDA). The DANB website has links to all State Boards of Dental Examiners, along with specific state requirements.

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.