What Does it Take to Become a Dentist in California?

As professionals who have dedicated their lives to ensure people receive professional and proper oral health care, dentists are an indispensable part of the medical field. Dentists must be knowledgeable, skilled, and well-versed in caring for their patients. If you are prepared to learn the tools and technologies and complete an extensive education of the dental trade, you should enjoy a fulfilling and busy career.

There is a good reason why dentists are required to live up to high standards and complete rigorous education. Whether reviewing X-rays, removing cavities, fitting patients with prosthetics, or administering local anesthetics – patients trust dentists to provide them the best health treatment. Let’s take a look at what it takes to become a dentist in California

Bachelor’s Degree

Students need to complete an undergraduate program, such as a science-related or pre-dentistry major, before reaching dental school. They can choose an unrelated curriculum as well, but with these majors, they will be ahead of the rest when meeting prerequisite requirements.

Dental Admission Test

The Dental Admission Test is administered by the American Dental Association. It is a five-hour test comprised of 280 questions that are related to the natural sciences. Quantitative reasoning and reading comprehension also make up a portion of the overall score.

Doctoral Degree

There are two different types of programs that qualify dental students to practice as dentists when they obtain their license – the Doctor of Dental Medicine and the Doctor of Dental Surgery. In terms of coursework and outcomes, both programs are basically the same. To ensure that licensure will be possible after graduation, it is essential to enroll in a program accredited by the Commission of Dental Accreditation.

Becoming a Licensed Dentist in California

To obtain a California dental license, you must successfully obtain one of the following:

  1. Application for Licensure by Portfolio. The Portfolio Examination became a way to qualify for dental licensure in California on November 5, 2014. The applicants take the examination while enrolled in a dental school program. For more information, visit the Licensure by Portfolio web page.
  2. Application for Licensure by Residency. The qualification for dental licensure is obtained after completing a minimum of 12 months of advanced education in a general dentistry program or a general practice residency approved by the ADA’s CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation). This regulation was approved by the Office of Administrative Law on February 1, 2008. For more information, please visit the Licensure by Residency web page.
  3. After successfully completing the WREB (Western Regional Examining Board) examination, you can apply to the DBC for licensure. For more information, visit the Board’s web page for licensure based on the WREB examination.
  4. Application for Licensure by Credential is for dental professionals who are currently licensed in another state. For qualifications, please visit Licensure by Credential web pages.

If the dental school you graduated from is not approved by the California state board, there are several steps you should follow to receive dental licensure in California:

  • Foreign degree evaluation and NBDE (National Board of Dental Examination)
  • Two-year advanced standing program (an additional 2-year course in a U.S. or Canadian accredited dental program)
  • Pass the clinical exam
  • Application for licensure by acceptance of examination

The last step in qualifying for a dental license in California is taking the California Dental Licensure Examination. Dental Specialties Institute, Inc. provides courses to dental professionals who want to obtain or renew their dental practicing license in California.