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California’s Licensure by Portfolio Pathway

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The University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry was the first school in the state and country to have a DDS Class of 2015 graduate receive their licensure by portfolio. This licensure by portfolio is a pathway which came about in 2007, approved by California legislature in 2010. As of now, licensure by portfolio is currently only being offered in the state of California and only provides licensure to practice in-state as well.

                  Prior to the licensure by portfolio pathway, only two other ways to obtain a license in the state of California were available. The first was a clinical exam administered by the Western Regional Examining Board (WREB), which involves two and a half day clinical exams.  This exam demonstrates dental treatment competencies by performing the exam on a patient. The second pathway of licensure involves completing a postdoctoral residency program in an Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) or a General Practice Residency (GPR).

                  The new portfolio exam allows students to compile a portfolio based on their clinical experiences and competency exams performed while in school. The portfolio covers six subject areas: 1) Oral Diagnosis and Treatment Planning, 2) Direct Restoration, 3) Indirect Restoration, 4) Removable Prosthodontics, 5) Endodontics and 6) Periodontics. Students will be evaluated in these subject areas over their last year of dental school. Calibrated dental school faculty members will evaluate students in these six subject areas in accordance with criteria required by the Dental Board of California. Licensure by portfolio costs $350, in comparison to WREB examinations which run around $3,000.

                  Dentists and cosmetologists are currently the only two fields which still use licensure based on a live patient examination. Using a live patient-based examination can often present many challenges for dentists. A patient may not show up for an exam or can be bartered away by another candidate taking the exam. Not only can these unfortunate situations occur, but these exams also tend to be costly.  Overall, live patient exams are not the most ideal type of setting to practice dentistry, nor does it provide the highest standard of care to patients.

                  If dental students are thinking of staying within the state of California upon graduation for at least five years, they should think about licensure by portfolio. Oftentimes school requirements correlate closely with the portfolio requirements, making it very convenient for students to complete portfolio requirements. This type of licensure is the first step to break away from traditional live patient-based examinations and hopefully eliminating these types of exams all together.