US Dental License & International Graduates

Obtain a dental license in America after you meet education and examination requirements.

A dental license allows appropriately trained people to legally practice dentistry in the US.
Each state maintains its own dental licensing board that establishes requirements for those seeking to practice dentistry in that state. Because of this, requirements vary from one state to the next.
Nearly all states share certain standards, however. Among these is the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE), which graduates must pass before being granted professional licensure. This exam is either administered by the state licensing agency or by one of four regional agencies:

  • Northeast Regional Board
  • Western Regional Board
  • Central Regional Dental Testing Service
  • Southern Regional Testing Agency

The NBDE

The NBDE is the nationally required examination for those pursuing a dental license. It is divided into two parts, each of which must be passed.
Part 1 consists of 400 questions testing general science knowledge, including anatomy, biochemistry and microbiology.
Part 2 consists of 500 questions of a more clinical nature, including operational dentistry, pharmacology and oral surgery.

Application Process For International Graduates

If you graduated from an international or non-accredited program, you must furnish certain information to become eligible for the NDBE.
First, you may have to provide English translations of academic records and transcripts. Second, you may be required to take a test, such as the TOEFL, demonstrating your proficiency in English. Finally, you must apply to take the NDBE.
Once you pass this exam, most states also require an ethics test to determine your competence to practice dentistry. Some states also have residency or internship obligations for international graduates. You are encouraged to contact the licensing board of the state you wish to practice in for additional information about getting a dental license.