By Isabel Eliassen

As society becomes more mobile, the need for workers to begin or continue careers in new states is a critical concern. This is especially true for those in state-licensed occupations. When individuals in these fields move across state boundaries, it can take months to receive an occupational license in their new state and resume practicing.

Both dentists and dental hygienists are included in this category of professions that face licensure challenges when moving across state lines. Although states have considerable similarities between education, examination and other licensure requirements for dentists and dental hygienists, acquiring a new license before a dentist or dental hygienist begins practicing in a new state can be time-consuming and costly.

This issue is especially prevalent for military families, who move between states with greater frequency than other population groups. As part of an ongoing effort by The Council of State Governments (CSG) and the Department of Defense (DOD) to help alleviate burdens related to interstate occupational licensure, dentists and dental hygienists will soon have an interstate licensure compact.

Interstate compacts are legislatively enacted contractual agreements between states. They allow practitioners to obtain the authority to practice in multiple states without needing to maintain multiple licenses. Interstate compacts also allow for greater public protection, as states share data about licensees and licensing concerns via a compact data system.

In September 2020, DOD and CSG started working together through a collaborative agreement to develop several new interstate licensure compacts. In March 2021, the Department of Defense selected the first round of professions to receive funding and technical assistance for compact development after a competitive application process. The selection of professions included dentists and dental hygienists. In partnership with the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), CSG began developing the compact for dentists and dental hygienists.

The compact development team first conducted a comparison of licensing requirements across states. Using this research, CSG convened a technical assistance group made up of regulators, administrators, legislators, dentists, dental hygienists and dentistry students to outline goals for the compact. A smaller group, the document team, subsequently worked on applying the compact goals to the provisions of the legislative language in the compact, while also defining other technical aspects of the compact. The draft was made available for public comment for two months to inform further revisions of the compact. CSG is currently working to finalize changes to the document with the document team before the compact legislation is available for state adoption.

States who are interested in joining the compact will need to enact the compact through their standard legislative process. At that point, they will become a participating state. Participating states each appoint a commissioner who collectively administers the compact via a compact commission. Through the commission, the compact will continue to reflect the will of the participating states through rulemaking and other administrative policies

The compact is expected to be available for state adoption in 2023. In addition to dentists and dental hygienists, CSG is also working to develop compacts for massage therapists, cosmetologists, teachers and social workers. For more information about the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact visit compacts.csg.org.

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