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National Board Dental Examinations (NBDE)

Last updated 23rd Sep 2022


The term NBDE refers to a two-part examination that assesses the applicant's knowledge and skills necessary to practice safe and effective dentistry. The National Board Dental Examinations is sponsored by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. The purpose of the test is to ensure individuals are able to understand and apply biomedical and dental sciences in a problem-solving context.


In the United States, local state boards of dentistry have the authority to grant an individual a license to practice their skill. The National Board Dental Examinations, or NBDE, provides a common system to use as part of the state's qualifications assessment and subsequent licensure.

The NBDE attempts to assess if an individual can identify and apply safe and effective dental sciences in practice. The NBDE is a two-part examination that assesses the candidate's abilities in the following manner:

  • NBDE Part I: includes 400 multiple choice questions evenly distributed among subject areas such as anatomic sciences, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, and dental anatomy.
  • NBDE Part II: includes 500 multiple choice questions, split between a discipline component (400 items) and a case component (100 items). The discipline component tests the candidate's knowledge in subject areas such as endodontics, operative dentistry, oral diagnosis, oral and maxillofacial surgery, periodontics, pharmacology and prosthodontics. The case component provides the candidate with symptoms, charting, radiographs and clinical photographs followed by 10 to 15 questions about the patient's dental care.

The test is administered electronically and candidates are given eight hours and 30 minutes to complete each of the above parts; each of the two days is divided into two four-hour sessions. NBDE Part I scores are reported as "pass / fail," and are graded against a standard. NBDE Part II scores are reported as "pass" for candidates that score higher than the exam's standard, while those that fail it receive their numerical score for remediation purposes. A passing grade is a standard score of 75 or higher.

Official results are available three to four weeks following the examination. Candidates are limited to five attempts to pass an examination or five years of testing, whichever comes first. After failing to pass an exam, a candidate must wait 90 days before their next attempt. Examinees that fail either part of the NBDE three times must wait 12 months before retesting.

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