Dental Licenses: Is Your Practice Legal?

As business owners it is your responsibility to make sure your team has the proper licensure, permits and certification necessary to legally provide services to your patients.  I’m sure you’ve heard, or even read about, unlicensed professionals practicing dentistry.  We’ve seen a trend for problems with licensure when evaluating practices and the dentist/owner has been shocked when we bring it to their attention. 

Although it is the employee’s responsibility to make sure their licenses and certifications are current, ultimately it becomes your responsibility as the owner.  If an employee lets their license and/or certification lapse not only the employee, but you and your business will be held accountable.

Set annual reviews of these materials with your team.  Missing or lapsed documentation can cause you and the team member to be fined, suspended from practicing dentistry, loss of contracts and fines from insurance companies, tarnishing of your reputation in the community and affecting your business owners insurance.  All of these are easily preventable by ensuring everyone is properly credentialed.  If you think it can’t or won’t happen to you, think again.  All it takes is a disgruntled employee/former employee or a patient questioning the doctor, hygienist or assistant’s capability and you’ll have a lawyer or the dental board knocking on your door.

Every state has different regulations regarding license criteria and renewal, so check your state’s dental board website for the most current regulations. You can also check online to see if a license is in good standing with the state board. ( 

Licenses and certifications should be posted where patients can see.  The following is a general list of what you should have on file for clinical team members:


  • Current Dental License (make sure it is signed)
  • Current DEA Certificate
  • Anesthesia Permit (if providing Nitrous Oxide, Conscious Sedation or General Anesthesia)
  • Current CPR Certification (Health Care Provider, PALS or ACLS)
  • Current Declarations Page of Professional Liability Insurance


  • Current Dental Hygiene License (make sure it is signed)
  • Current Local Anesthesia License (where applicable)
  • Current CPR Certification
  • Current Declarations Page of Professional Liability Insurance (if you require to have own policy)

 Dental Assistants:

  • Current Certificate of Dental Assisting
  • Radiology Certification
  • Current CPR Certification

It’s not uncommon to hear of team members, including dentists who were trained outside of the United States.  Don’t forget they can only practice if they have both a green card or work permit and a license to perform dentistry from the state in which they are to be employed.   

Hygienists cannot legally work or administer local anesthesia until they have the physical license in hand. Between taking the boards and receiving their license, a “hygienist in waiting” can only work as a dental assistant or at your front desk.  In addition, established hygienists may not be legal to provide local anesthesia unless they have taken the class and passed the board, which may be separate from their current license.

Assistants who are not CDAs (Certified Dental Assistant) and/or EFDAs (Expanded Function Dental Assistant) cannot legally perform expanded duties.  These duties include packing amalgam/composite, making temporary crowns, placing periodontal dressing, placing the matrix band and staining and glazing crowns, etc.  Any team member who is going to take radiographs must have a Radiology Certificate.  For more information on your state’s rules and regulation for dental assistants go to

It always boggles our mind that doctors will invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology and equipment yet when it comes to training, there is little to none for the team as it's perceived to be  too costly and time-consuming.  You must always invest in your team; otherwise it will cost you dearly!

Remember doctor, it is your name on the door.  You want to make sure you are employing people who are who they say they are.  Don’t just assume because they say they are a dentist or a hygienist that they have a current or proper license.

For more information please contact Amy Smith Consulting, LLC, 508-697-7318 or