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How to Become a Dentist in Colorado

Choosing a dental school is a big decision- this is where you will receive the education that sets the stage for your career. You want a school that will teach you all you need to know to succeed in that career, but you also want a school that offers a sense of community.

When you are looking for a school of dentistry to attend, you should keep in mind your state’s requirements for being certified in this field, how to take the necessary tests to be certified and what you want to do once you finish school. All of these questions can help you choose the right school for your goals.

State Requirements for the Field of Dentistry

State requirements to work in dentistry will vary by state and the position you choose. For example, to become a dentist, you will have to meet different criteria than someone who wants to be a dental assistant. 

In Colorado, the Colorado Dental Board is responsible for regulating and licensing dentists and dental hygienists, but it does not regulate or license dental assistants.

How to Become a Dental Assistant in Colorado

Requirements for dental assistants in Colorado are decided mainly by employers, with radiography an exception. That being said, most employers do want assistants with previous experience or formal training.

Colorado does not require licensing or certification for dental assistants, but all dental assistants must have at least a high school diploma or equivalency. The state also mandates that anyone working in a setting where analgesia, sedation, or anesthesia is administered must have a Basic Life Support (BLS) certification. Additionally, any dental assistant who will be administering nitrous oxide or oxygen must have the appropriate training.

How to Become a Dental Hygienist in Colorado

To be licensed in that state, people interested in becoming a dental hygienist must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program, pass the national board exam, and pass a regional or state exam.

How to Become a Dentist in Colorado

A person interested in earning a doctoral degree in dentistry will need to have a four-year degree from a university, then they will complete four more academic years of dental study to obtain a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD).

All states require dentists to be licensed to practice. In Colorado, a candidate must graduate from a dental school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) and pass examinations to obtain a license.

State Certifications and Licensing

After the basic requirements are met, a person interested in becoming a dental assistant, dental hygienist or a dentist will need to pass exams to become certified.

Getting Certified as a Dental Assistant in Colorado

In Colorado, a dental assistant does not have to be licensed or certified by the state, but individual employers sometimes want national certifications for their assistants. This type of certification is granted by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) based on a person’s education or experience and passing an examination.

The Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential is recognized in Colorado and nationwide. A person must graduate from a CODA-accredited program or need 3,500 hours of work experience before they are eligible to take a test to receive certification as a CDA.

The CDA examination process includes three examinations: Radiation Health and Safety, Infection Control and Chairside Assisting.

Getting Certified as a Dental Hygienist in Colorado

People aiming for a career in dental hygiene must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program, pass the national board exam, and pass a state licensing exam.

In Colorado, that process would be like this:

  • Complete a Dental Hygiene Associate’s Degree Program
  • Pass the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination
  • Take the Colorado Dental Jurisprudence Examination
  • Apply for a license as a dental hygienist
  • Maintain the dental hygienist license

Getting Certified as a Dentist in Colorado

Getting certified as a dentist in Colorado can be complicated. First, candidates must show that they have completed a DDS or DMD degree from a CODA-accredited school. Then, they must pass an exam given by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations.

After that, they will need to pass the exam that pertains to their particular field. This test will be performed on manikins or patients and all parts of the examination must be successfully completed.

After these requirements have been met, an applicant must submit a completed Board approved application along with the required fees. The applicant must also obtain commercial professional liability insurance coverage.

After the initial license is given, dentists in Colorado must meet ongoing requirements, such as re-licensing and continuing education, to keep their license current.

To start this process, though, a person interested in becoming a dentist should choose the right school of dentistry in Colorado.

Choosing the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine

The School of Dental Medicine at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora is the only dental school located in the heart of the Rocky Mountain West. The CODA-accredited program educates more than 400 students annually, and has been operating for over 40 years.

CU Dental students enjoy:

  • ​Rotating through the school’s Advanced Clinical Training Service program that allows 4th-year DDS students to provide dental services to underserved communities in Colorado
  • Participating in interprofessional education programs​ across the campus
  • Providing free and reduced dental care to military veterans at the CU Heroes Clinic
  • Participating in various research opportunities

Visit the school’s website to learn more about admission requirements, curriculum and fees.

Opportunities After School

After graduation, students can apply for licensing in any state that will administer exams to those who have graduated from a CODA-accredited university. People can also use this educational foundation to choose a specialty in dentistry and continue learning in that field.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes 12 specialties of dentistry. Those are:

  • Dental Anesthesiology
  • Dental Public Health
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral Medicine
  • Orofacial Pain
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics

With so many opportunities, people who choose to enter the field of dentistry can easily find a specialty that allows them to build a career. That career starts with a solid education. 

Related Links

Dental assistant programs in Colorado

How to become a dental hygienist in Colorado