ADA Announces Plans to Create a License Exam that Doesn’t Involve Live Patients

In an effort to have a more ethical licensing exam that doesn’t involve performing dental work on live patients, the ADA has begun creating a new exam that still tests clinical competency while avoiding the risk of a patient having something done incorrectly or ending up with worse dental issues after being part of a live exam.

According to a recent article on, they plan to have the new exam available for states to use by 2020.

This new exam will be an Objective Structured Clinical Exam (known as a dental OSCE). This type of exam has already been used for years in other health fields, such as medicine and nursing, and allows for accurate measuring of test-takers’ clinical knowledge, critical thinking skills, and ability to work under the pressures of the field without actually performing any procedures on patients.

Using live patients to test whether or not dental students are ready to receive their license poses an ethical dilemma for everyone involved. What if the test taker was determined to not be ready for their license? Essentially an incompetent and unprepared dentist is practicing dentistry on a patient. Or what if the test taker actually caused some harm to the person they are testing on? Then there needs to be a plan in place for placating the patient and a designated dentist to fix any problems created.

By having a new standard exam that doesn’t use live patients the dental industry can avoid the ethical issue while still maintaining the integrity of newly issued dental licenses. The ADA has been working to eliminate this exam practice since 2005 but only recently has been able to find a consensus among state dental associations on how to move the plan forward.

Currently, the ADA has a team together to finalize the details of the exam structure, the technology that will be used, practice analysis, candidate requirements, and key regions to do an initial test of the exam among other essential aspects. This test is designed to be the national standard for dental licensure examination.

It is in part based off of the Canadian Dental OSCE (which is currently accepted for licensing dental students at the University of Minnesota). The Canadian OSCE has students work through various stations and answer detailed multiple choice exam questions based off of clinical scenarios and potential patient situations to test their knowledge and preparedness for joining the dental field.

However, some are still skeptical about a licensure exam that doesn’t involve performing procedures on live patients. The ADA, therefore, is committed to addressing the potential issues with an exam that doesn’t include live patients and ensuring that if used newly licensed dentists will be as prepared for full time practice as those who tested with live patients.

To find more detailed information about the proposed dental OSCE visit the ADANews website.