There are several ways dentists can become licensed in the
United States depending on where they want to practice. The different pathways
to achieve licensure can be somewhat overwhelming, and taking a live patient
examination can make licensure even more stressful. Did you know that dentistry
and cosmetology are the only two career fields that still use live patient examinations?
Medical doctors, surprisingly, do not have live patient examinations. Licensing
exams include the WREB, CDCA (formerly the NERB), CITA, SRTA and CRDTS. In addition,
dentists can also be licensed by portfolio in California and by residency in Minnesota,
California, Colorado, and Ohio. So, which pathway should you take?
Ultimately, the decision on how you want to achieve
licensure depends on the state in which you intend to practice. As a first
step, I would highly recommend visiting the website of each state’s dental
board. Figure out what exactly their licensure requirements are and if there
are any caveats associated with them.
What do I mean by caveats? Let me give you an example. I am
currently a fourth-year dental student and will be completing a one-year, PGY1
AEGD program in California. Since I would like to stay in California to
eventually practice, I have decided to achieve licensure through my residency
program instead of taking the WREBs. Now, why wouldn’t I go ahead and take the
WREBS, knowing that it would open me up to practice in more states? After doing
some research on the California State Dental Board website, I discovered that
if you have failed the WREBs within the last five years and are trying to fulfill
licensure by residency, you would not be able to get your license this way.
More so, some GPR and AEGD programs will not let you start their program if you
have failed the WREBs. Instead of putting myself through all that stress, I
decided not to take the WREBs and get my license through residency. This is
what I mean by reading into requirements and seeing if there are any minor
details to be aware of before taking an exam.
A quick note on licensure by residency: In applicable
states, it can be achieved by completing a one-year, post-graduate (PGY1) CODA-approved
GPR or AEGD program. Licensure by residency does not include specialty
Keep in mind, depending on the state, dentists can also
achieve licensure by credential if they have already been a licensed dentist in
one state and would like to practice in another. Usually the dentist needs to
have practiced in their licensed state for about five years and have accumulated
many working hours to be licensed in another state. Again, this really depends
on the individual state and what their exact requirements are.
Hopefully, in the near future dentistry will start to pull
away from the live patient based examinations and opt for more licensure by
portfolio or residency. Until then, it is important to do your research and
make sure to understand all the details associated with your state and choice