Dental licensing in 2020: Where are they now? Part 2

As discussed in a blog post earlier this week, 2020 grads faced challenges obtaining their dental licensure until ASDA stepped in to assist with this effort.

Elizabeth Stapleton, a 2020 graduate in Virginia, shared, “The original plan for my licensure included a manikin exam with ADEX for prosthodontics and endodontics, and a live-patient exam for restorative and periodontics.” Stapleton went on to share that her school closed on March 13, 2020, because the governor issued an executive order limiting public gatherings. For a while, the administration maintained that students would be required to take a live-patient exam.

However, thanks in part to ASDA’s efforts described in Monday’s post, students like Stapleton learned that the Virginia Board of Dentistry voted to modify its clinical examination requirements on May 8, 2020. For all 2020 grads in Virginia, the periodontal portion would be waived, and Class 2 and Class 3 lesions could be performed on a typodont to complete any of the five testing agencies accepted by the board: CITA, CDCA, SRTA, CRDTS or WREB.

Given the quick shift to a manikin exam, Stapleton did admit to some challenges. “For me, it was difficult entering an exam on a plastic tooth without practicing several times,” she says. “I had to have confidence and just do what I had been training to do for the past four years.”

At the same time, eliminating the live patient from the high stakes testing scenario provided some relief. Stapleton shared she was grateful she didn’t have to worry if her patient’s blood pressure would be too high that day, if they would show up on time (or at all), or if the patient’s decay was too small or had enlarged significantly from the initial exam.

ASDA has been on the forefront of this charge for years. In 2016, ASDA launched its white paper detailing the issues with the current licensure exam process. In October 2019, ASDA joined forces with the ADA and ADEA to create the Coalition for Modernizing Dental Licensure (CMDL). More than 65 organizations have joined the coalition with the goals of achieving a valid and reliable dental licensure exam that does not involve the use of a single-encounter procedure-based examination on patients, and achieving portability of dental licensure among all licensing jurisdictions in the United States.

For the class of 2020, 43 states made some sort of change to the initial licensure exam. Many allowed manikin exams, some provided a temporary or provisional licensure, others accepted the ADA’s DLOSCE exam, and some states accepted a combination of these alternatives.

Today, Stapleton is a first-year orthodontic resident at Tufts and shared she’s “living [her] lifelong dream of becoming an orthodontist!” She shared, “I also truly hope that dentistry moves to a manikin exam. Dentistry is the only profession that makes its professionals obtain a license from a one-day, live-patient exam that is subject to many ethical issues and simply unfair practices.”

Grassroots advocacy starts from the ground up. For students graduating this year and in the future, whether their exam is on a manikin or live patient depends on our continued advocacy efforts. We saw exponential change in 2020 that must continue for the class of 2021 and beyond to ensure the future of dentistry is based on ethics, validity and reliability. To learn more about how to get involved at the grassroots level, email [email protected].


The American Student Dental Association is a national student-run organization that protects and advances the rights, interests and welfare of dental students.

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