Dentistry in the United States

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The practice of dentistry in the United States is overseen by several agencies including the American Dental Association, the Commission on Dental Accreditation and the regional boards. Ultimate licensure is the responsibility of individual states. There are roughly 190,000 practicing dentists in the United States.[1]

Dental education[edit]

In order to be accepted to an American dental school, most candidates must possess at least a bachelor's degree as well as the pre-requisite courses.

The first 2 years of dental school consist mostly of didactic education as well as simulation courses. The last two years generally involve direct patient care under supervision. There tends to be much overlap in most schools' curricula; the didactic years may have some clinical components while the last two years still have significant didactic coursework. During dental school, students must take and successfully pass Part I and Part II of the National Board Dental Examination (also known as "the Boards"), which are administered by the ADA. Part I is usually taken after the second year of dental school, while Part II is usually taken sometime in the fourth year.


Accredited programs[edit]

The first step in practicing dentistry in the United States is graduating from an accredited dental degree program in the United States and Canada.[2] The graduates of Australian dental schools cannot be licensed in the United States. The reciprocity agreement between CDAC (Canada) and Australia does not extend to the United States and the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). The reciprocity agreement that CODA has with CDAC only covers Canadian programs. CODA does have policies and procedures in place for accrediting established international predoctoral education programs.

Regional boards[edit]

Most states require candidates to pass a regional board exam. Regional boards are agencies which are contracted to test graduating dental students on clinical skills for a specific region of the country. These exams usually have several components, both written and clinical, and the latter is performed on live patients. The different boards include the Northeast Regional Board of Dental Examiners (usually referred to as the "NERB"), Western Regional Examining Board (usually referred to as the "WREB"), Central Regional Dental Testing Service (CRDTS) and the Southern Regional Testing Agency (SRTA). California, Connecticut and Minnesota are states which allow candidates to complete a 1-year General Practice Residency (GPR) or an Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) in lieu of a regional board exam. As of 2007, New York no longer accepted the NERB and has since required all graduates to complete a GPR or AEGD.

Specialty training[edit]

Dental graduates have the option of pursuing specialty training. Currently, the American Dental Association formally recognizes 9 specialties:

State regulation[edit]

Every state has a regulatory body that oversees the practice of dentistry and is usually referred to as the dental board of that state.

Dental economics[edit]

Until the late 20th century, most of dentistry was paid directly by patients. Today funding for dentistry includes self-payment, private insurance, employer-sponsored insurance, Medicaid and SCHIP.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Health, United States, 2012" (PDF). United States Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  2. ^ "Dental Licensing, Certification, and Education in the United States". For You Dental. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  1. American Dental Association
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. NERB
  4. WREB
  5. CRDTS
  6. SRTA
  7. Minnesota Board of Dentistry
  8. Dental Board of California
  9. Connecticut Department of Public Health
  10. American Student Dental Association - Licensure by State
  11. Complete List of Dental Schools in USA