The time has come for us to have a federal reciprocity agreement
to travel across state lines to practice.

February 2, 2022

Dr. MaryJane Hanlon

Senior Vice President, North America


Life throws us curveballs occasionally. It becomes even more complicated when you are licensed to practice dentistry or dental hygiene in a state, then suddenly, your life is upside down with the accidental death of a spouse, or you have to move due to family responsibilities.  

Recently, Promethean Dental Systems had the pleasure of working with a dentist who found herself in the middle of a divorce and in a new state that did not accept her licensing credentials. After twenty-one years of being a dentist in one state, she found herself having to "practice" to take another licensing exam on the manikin.  

Just for a moment, imagine you are in this scenario. It has been 20 plus years since you graduated and even longer since you have worked on a plastic tooth! Now imagine being told you have to retest your skills. What would you do?  

Why do we even have to think about this? 

In this day and age, with technology at our fingertips and data being processed at the speed of light, why is it that a professional with 21 years of experience is put through such an ordeal? She has no complaints filed against her. She has done her continuing education. She keeps up with her CPR and even has a comprehensive tracking and documentation system for her CDC and OSHA protocols. Yet, she still must take a licensing exam to prove her hand skills. Why? Don't you think by now, if she weren't a good dentist, something would have happened? Ok, maybe not. However, there has to be a way to make it easier for us to move across state lines as professionals.

The time has come for us to have a federal reciprocity agreement to travel across state lines to practice. What is reciprocity? Reciprocity is an agreement between two or more states that allows a dentist or dental hygienist licensed in one state to receive, usually without further examination or requirements, a license to practice in any of the other states in the reciprocity agreement.  

Medicine has reciprocity. Thirty states participate in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) that allows physicians to apply for an expedited license in another state if their primary license is in one of the participating states. It will enable another pathway for licensure that does not have to change a state's existing medical practice act.  

The process in medicine makes it very easy to qualify if you meet specific eligibility requirements. What are they? 

  • Keeping a medical license in a primary state
  • Requesting a license in the state that provides reciprocity
  • Have graduated from an accredited medical school
  • Have no history of disciplinary actions toward their medical license
  • No criminal history
  • No history of controlled substance actions toward their medical license
  • Not currently under investigation.

According to the IMLC, about 80% of all physicians would qualify. I do not doubt that the same statistics would hold true for dentists.  

Fortunately, the ball is beginning to roll towards reciprocity for dental professionals. Recently, I had the honor of speaking at the annual American Association of Dental Boards on Remediation. During the event, I happened upon a discussion about reciprocity that is beginning across the country. The good news? Meetings are happening, and the train is moving out of the station.

After arranging care for her son while out of town, this amazing woman picked herself up to arrive in our office in Athens, GA, to take her exam. Two days of practice, and hours of reviewing YouTube videos on how to cut a plastic tooth and create an "ideal" prep later, she will take her exam tomorrow - as anxious as any dental student I have seen in my eight years of overseeing licensing exams as the Clinical Dean at Tufts University. All this additional stress and financial burden to move closer to family to have support while going through a divorce. Life stresses should not have to carry additional cumbersome burdens. 

It is already hard enough.  

Reciprocity and a fair and equitable exam will allow future professionals to make the necessary moves in their lives when a crisis occurs such as this. Now is the time to get the ball up the hill and roll it down the other side to completion.