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Dentist Licensing and Certification

Dentists must be licensed by the board in their state or jurisdiction. This involves completing a four year degree program and passing written and practical examinations. The written exam is standard across jurisdictions; the National Board Dental Examination has two parts and is generally taken toward the end of dental school. Many states allow candidates to become licensed right after completion of academic requirements. Some, however, require a residency, which is a period of supervised practice.

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Dentists who want to be board certified have additional educational and residency requirements. In order to be certified in General Dentistry through the American Board of General Dentistry, new dentists need to complete a CODA-accredited post-doctoral residency. The residency may be either one or two years; if it is one year, continuing education is also required. Once eligibility is demonstrated, the dentist must take a rigorous certification exam.

Practicing dentists are eligible to take the board certification exam once they have achieved, or been approved for, Mastership status with the Academy of General Dentistry. In addition to organizational membership, this designation requires a significant amount of continuing education – more than what is typically required of dentists.

Specialty certifications are also available. These include oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, endodontics, and dental public health, among others. Some dentists specialize in working with pediatric populations. Policies vary from board to board, but dentists can expect to complete two to four years of advanced education. Board certification also requires two to five years of experience.