You’ve upgraded your technology over the years, yes? Surely you’re not still using a flip phone. Or a VCR to record your favorite shows. How about dial-up internet?

So, it makes sense that industries would upgrade policies and procedures as technology makes strides in making everyone’s lives simpler and more streamlined. Dentistry included.

Calling for the modernization "upgrade" of the dental licensure process, the American Dental Association, the American Dental Education Association and American Student Dental Association have teamed up to become the founding members of a group called the Coalition for Modernizing Dental Licensure.

The Coalition, officially founded on Oct. 1, has decided on two key areas of focus:

  1. Replacing the single encounter, procedure-based patient exams with clinical assessments that have stronger validity and reliability evidence
  2. Increasing the portability of dental licensure among all states for the benefit of both the public and the profession.

"Ensuring patient safety and that each dentist meets professional standards for practice are the critical underpinnings of the dental licensure process," said Dr. Joseph P. Crowley, ADA president. "This report and the coalition's ongoing efforts call upon state dental boards to amend and modernize their licensure requirements."

The three organizations that make up the Coalition have agreed to work together to advance the vision, goals, objectives and strategies that will be determined by the Coalition, consistent with the policies of each member organization, according to an agreement signed at ADA Headquarters earlier this month.

Licensure Defined

Licensure is the term for the licensing process all dentists must go through at least once in their professional life in order to practice dentistry. In the U.S., requirements vary from state to state, and all applicants must meet three basic requirements:

  • Graduation from an accredited dental education program
  • A passing grade on the National Board Dental Examinations
  • A passing grade on a clinical examination

The Coalition has proposed a modernized process for initial licensure to replace the single encounter as well as procedure-based patient exams with alternative assessments and examinations.

There are much better ways to handle licensure, and we have only to look to every other health profession to demonstrate that," said Dr. R.L. Monty MacNeil, chair of the ADEA Board of Directors. "Dentistry is also an outlier in the lengths dentists have to go to if they want to move across state lines and provide care. It's just time we fix this."