Board Certification

Board Certification is the process by which dentists (DDS, DMD), physicians (MD, DO) or other health care practitioners in the United States demonstrate through written, oral, practical, and/or simulator based testing, a mastery of the basic knowledge and skills that define an area of dental/medical specialization. The commonly used acronym BE/BC (board eligible/board certified) refers to a doctor who is certified, or is eligible to be certified, to announce specialization in a particular area of practice.  Prior to taking the examination, a dentist or physician must graduate with a degree, either DDS, DMD, MD or DO, complete approved post-graduate training and meet all other prerequisites to certification as set forth by the certifying agency or “board.”  Board Certification helps ensure the public that formal training has been completed and a sufficient knowledge base in the specialty has been demonstrated.

Procedure for Recognition of New Certifying Boards

1. Criteria

A dental certifying board that seeks membership in the American Board of Dental Specialties must:

  •  Reflect a distinct and well-defined area of expertise in dental practice, above and beyond that provided at the level of pre-doctoral dental education, that is founded in evidence-based science, contributes to professional growth and education, and concerns the practice of dentistry.
  •   Develop a rigorous standard of preparation and evaluation in the dental specialty area.
  •   Provide evidence of psychometric evaluation of the written and oral examination processes for a period of time sufficient to ensure validity and reliability.
  •   Provide an effective mechanism to maintain certification.
  •   Exist as an independent, self-governing entity whose main purpose is to evaluate candidates for board certification in a field of dentistry.

2. Application Process

      •   The application and related documentation should be directed to:
        American Board of Dental Specialties
        Executive Director
        211 East Chicago Avenue, Suite 750C
        Chicago, IL 60611
        888-371-3595 Fax

The completed application must include a non-refundable application fee.

3. Specialty 

ABDS recognizes that there are varying levels of education and training required for board certification within specific areas of dentistry.  The Levels and their specific requirements for education, training and experience are:

    •  Dental Specialty

Certifying boards seeking Dental Specialty must require a minimum of two (2) full-time, formal, advanced educational programs that are a minimum of two (2) years in duration and are presented by recognized educational institutions:  Any alternate pathway must demonstrate it is equivalent with didactic, clinical and completed cases to their two-year post-graduate training program.


4. Approval as a Dental Specialty Board

  •   Following approval by the ABDS, the newly approved dental specialty board may announce through its members, its website or in press releases, that it has been certified as a dental specialty board by the American Board of Dental Specialties.
  •   The approved board will become a member of ABDS with all rights and privileges as outlined in the ABDS Bylaws.

5. Denial as a Dental Specialty Board

  •   If the application is deemed incomplete, ABDS will send a letter outlining any perceived deficiencies after which the applicant board has thirty (30) days to respond and to address the deficiencies. Within ninety (90) days after receipt of the applicant board’s response/additional information. ABDS will issue its decision.
  •   Should the decision of ABDS be to deny the application, the applicant board may file a written appeal to the ABDS Executive Director within three (3) months after receipt of the denial. The applicant board may request reconsiderations and may be granted an informal hearing with ABDS.