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Continuing Education Requirements and FAQ

February 17, 2023 7840

Changes in continuing education regulations, effective Jan. 1, 2023, are marked in bold text below. They include but are not limited to:

  • New mandated course in responsibilities and requirements of prescribing Schedule II opioid drugs.
  • Addition of American Safety and Health Institute-approved providers as approved providers of required basic life support course.
  • Addition of professional ethics to the required content of a board-approved Dental Practice Act course.
  • Limited credit is permitted for providing direct patient care as an unpaid volunteer in specified settings.
  • Reduction to 30 units required for license renewal for retired dentists who are only in uncompensated practice.

Continuing Education Units Required

For each renewal period by license and permit type

Dentist, active 50

A dentist with one of these permits must complete specified coursework. The units count as part of the 50 total required for license renewal.

  • General anesthesia – must complete 24 units in general anesthesia and advanced cardiac life support courses.
  • Moderate sedation -- 15 units in moderate sedation and medical emergencies courses.
  • Pediatric endorsement for general anesthesia or moderate sedation permit – Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and airway management certificate or other training from board-approved C.E. providers in pediatric life support and airway management.
  • Oral conscious sedation – 7 units in oral conscious sedation courses.

A dentist who prescribes and administers vaccines must complete each licensure renewal period 1 unit on vaccine administration, prevention and management of adverse reactions and maintenance of vaccine records. An approved provider for this course includes the Centers for Disease Control as well as any board-approved CE provider.

Dentist, renewing for the first time after initial licensure 0
Dentist, retired active* 30
Dentist, retired inactive* 0
Dentist, disabled* 0
DA with a specialty permit 25
Unlicensed DA 0

A basic life support certificate must be active at all times for all of the above categories.

* A dentist must apply for these license categories. Continuing education is required to restore active license status.

General Rules

Continuing education units must be earned in the two-year renewal period that starts on the first day of the month following the license expiration date. Units earned in excess of the required number of units may not be carried over to the next renewal period.

The license and/or permit expiration date is determined by the individual’s birth month and year. A license and/or permit expires on the last day of the individual’s birth month. If an individual’s birth year is an odd-numbered year, the expiration year is an odd-numbered year. An individual born in an even-numbered year will have a license that expires in an even-numbered year.

One unit of credit is granted for every hour of contact instruction and may be issued in half-hour increments. Eight units of credit is the maximum allowed to be earned in one day.

No more than one-half of the total units required for license or permit renewal may be earned through correspondence or non-live instruction. It is also optional to earn 100% of the total required units through live, interactive instruction courses.

No more than 20% of the total number of units required for license or permit renewal may be earned from courses deemed by the dental board to be primarily of benefit to the licensee. No C.E. credit will be allowed for specified types of courses, mainly those with no benefit to patients. See below for more information on these courses.

Retain continuing education certificates for a minimum of three renewal periods. The certificates must be produced when audited by the board. Do not submit certificates at the time of license or permit renewal unless required.

Completion of a course does not constitute authorization for the attendee to perform any services that they are not legally authorized to perform based on their license or permit type. For example, coronal polishing may not be performed by an unlicensed dental assistant who completed the coronal polishing course. The course is a prerequisite for obtaining a registered dental assistant license.

Mandatory Courses for Licensees

  • A two-unit course on the responsibilities and requirements of prescribing Schedule II opioids (dentist-only requirement)
  • A board-approved two-unit course on infection control
  • A board-approved two-unit course on the Dental Practice Act
  • A basic life support class that meets the requirements of the dental board. A maximum of four units can be earned for the class. This requirement can be met by completion of either:
    • An American Heart Association (AHA) or American Red Cross (ARC) course in Basic Life Support (BLS) or
    • A BLS course taught by a provider approved by the American Dental Association’s Continuing Education Recognition Program (CERP) or the Academy of General Dentistry’s Program Approval for Continuing Education (PACE).
    • A BLS course taught by a provider approved by the American Safety and Health Institute (ASHI).

A basic life support course must include:

  • Instruction in both adult and pediatric CPR, including two-rescuer scenarios;
  • Instruction on foreign-body airway obstruction;
  • Instruction in relief of choking for adults, children and infants;
  • Instruction in the use of automated external defibrillation with CPR; and
  • Live, in-person skills practice session, a skills test and a written examination.

A maximum of four units is granted for basic life support certificate course completion

Courses Eligible for Continuing Education Credit

In order to claim a continuing education credit, a licensee or permit holder should ensure a course meets two requirements:

  1. Is provided by an entity approved as a continuing education provider by the dental board, the American Dental Association Continuing Education Recognition Program (CERP) or the Academy of General Dentistry Program Approval for Continuing Education (PACE).
  2. Is primarily focused on the delivery of dental services to the patient or community or on practice management with some benefit to the patient. See below for more information on these courses.

The dental board will consider, upon application, granting credit to a course taken out of state that meets the second criteria above but not the first. The application must be submitted to the board well before the license expiration date.

Units from these types of courses are not restricted:

(A) Preventive services, diagnostic protocols and procedures (including physical evaluation, radiography, dental photography) comprehensive treatment planning, charting of the oral conditions, informed consent protocols and record-keeping.

(B) Nutrition and nutrition counseling of the patient.

(C) Aesthetic, corrective and restorative oral health diagnosis and treatment.

(D) Dentistry’s role in individual and community health emergencies, disasters and disaster recovery.

(E) Legal requirement governing the licensee in the areas of auxiliary employment and delegation of responsibilities; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); actual delivery of care.

(F) Federal, state and local regulations, guidelines or statutes regarding workplace safety, fire and emergency, environmental safety, waste disposal and management, general office safety, sexual harassment prevention and all training requirements set forth by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-DOSH) including the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

(G) Administration of general anesthesia, conscious sedation, oral conscious sedation or medical emergencies.

(H) Evaluation, selection, use and care of dental instruments, sterilization equipment, operatory equipment and personal protective attire.

(I) Dependency issues and substance abuse such as alcohol and drug use as it relates to patient safety, professional misconduct, ethical considerations or malpractice.

(J) Behavioral sciences, behavior guidance and patient management in the delivery of care to all populations including special needs, pediatric and sedation patients when explicitly oriented to the patient's clinical care.

(K) Selection, incorporation and use of current and emerging technologies.

(L) Cultural competencies such as bilingual dental terminology, cross-cultural communication, provision of public health dentistry and the dental professional’s role in the provision of care in nontraditional settings when oriented specifically to the needs of the dental patient and will serve to enhance the patient experience.

(M) Dentistry’s role in individual and community health programs.

(N) Legal and ethical aspects of the insurance industry, including management of third-party payer issues, dental billing practices, patient and provider appeals of payment disputes and patient management of billing matters.

Units from these types of courses may not be more than 20% of the total units required for license or permit renewal because they are considered to be of primary benefit to the licensee (10 units for a DDS, 5 units for RDA/RDH):

(A) To improve recall and scheduling systems, production flow, communication systems and data management.

(B) In organization and management of the dental practice including business planning and operations, office computerization and design, ergonomics and the improvement of practice administration and office operations.

(C) In leadership development and team development.

(D) In teaching methodology and curricula development.

(E) In peer evaluation and case studies that include reviewing clinical evaluation procedures, reviewing diagnostic methods, studying radiographic data, study models and treatment planning procedures.

(F) In human resources management and employee benefits.

Units from these types of courses cannot be earned because they are considered to be of direct benefit to the licensee or outside the scope of dental practice in California:

(A) Money management, the licensee’s personal finances or personal matters such as financial or estate planning and personal investments.

(B) General physical fitness, weight management or the licensee’s personal health.

(C) Presentations by political or public figures or other persons who do not deal primarily with dental practice or issues impacting the dental profession.

(D) To make the licensee a better businessperson or designed to improve the licensee's personal profitability, including motivation and marketing.

(E) Purchase or sale of a dental practice, business or office; transfer of practice ownership, acquisition of partners and associates, practice valuation, practice transitions or retirement.

(F) Provision of elective facial cosmetic surgery as defined by the Dental Practice Act unless the licensee has an elective facial cosmetic surgery permit issued by the board.

Activities Eligible for Continuing Education Credit

Providing patient care as a volunteer: Up to three units of credit may be earned per license renewal period by a licensee who provides direct patient care for up to three hours as an unpaid volunteer at a free public health care event or nonprofit community health clinic. Units may be issued in half-hour increments.

Participation in specified board programs for no more than 20% of total continuing education unit requirements for license renewal. The board will issue C.E. certificates to participants. Activities include:

  • Those related to license examinations such as calibration training, examiner orientation sessions and examinations.
  • Site visit or evaluation related to issuance and maintenance of general anesthesia, moderate sedation or oral conscious sedation permit.
  • Calibration training and site evaluation training relating to general anesthesia, moderate sedation or oral conscious sedation permits.
  • Site visit or evaluation of an approved dental auxiliary program or course.

Frequently Asked Questions

I took a clinical course outside of California. The course provider is not approved by the dental board, AGD PACE or ADA CERP.  How can I obtain credit for attending this course?

You can petition the dental board to grant credit. Complete and submit an “Application for Continuing Education Approval for Out-of-State Course Offered by an Unregistered California Provider” that is available for download from the board website. Include with the application, the course content, course duration and evidence from the provider of course completion. Be certain to submit the application in sufficient time to allow the board to review and approve it before the end of your renewal period.

I find value in taking the required infection control course and Dental Practice Act course every year. Am I able to claim C.E. credit for the second time I take those courses in a renewal period if the instructors are different from the first time?

Yes, you can get C.E. credit each time you take the Dental Practice Act course or infection control course as long as there is a different instructor from the last time you took the course.

Will any infection control course satisfy the requirement to complete two units in infection control?

No. Only infection control courses (and Dental Practice Act courses) approved by the dental board will satisfy the mandatory course requirement. You can use the Department of Consumer Affairs license search database ( to verify whether a provider’s course is board approved. See the figure for an example of what to verify. 

license detail example

Will an online CPR course satisfy the mandatory basic life support certification requirement?

No. Part of the course may be taken online but a live, in-person skills practice session is required. See the requirements described above.

I know the dental board grants continuing education credit for accredited postdoc programs. How is the number of C.E. units calculated for a postdoc course? In other words, what is the C.E. unit equivalent for a 3-unit course?

If you hold a license issued by the Dental Board of California or Dental Hygiene Committee of California and are enrolled full-time in an educational program, such as a postdoctoral program, dental school, dental hygiene program or registered dental assisting in an extended function program, approved by the dental board or ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation, one unit of continuing education credit is granted for every hour of contact instruction and may be issued in half-hour increments. The credit applies to either academic or clinical instruction. A maximum of eight units per day can be credited. In case of an audit, a licensee should retain school transcripts or a letter from the residency program director that includes name, license number and dates of enrollment.

An RDA holds a specialty certificate. Is she required to obtain 25 continuing education credits for each license and certificate (total of 50 credits) or is 25 credits sufficient for renewal of both license and certificate?

The total number of C.E. units required for an individual with dual dental licenses and/or permits is the greatest number required for one license/permit. In this example, the RDA need only complete 25 units to renew both the license and specialty certificate.

Is a live, interactive webinar considered live instruction?

Yes, it is. Only one-half of a licensee’s required C.E. units may be earned through the use of correspondence courses such as video-recorded courses, audio-recorded courses and home study materials. All remaining units must be earned through live, interactive courses such as live lectures, live telephone conferences, live video conferences, live webinars, live workshops or live classrooms.

I took a course on derma fillers and Botox from an education provider approved by ADA CERP – can I claim C.E. credit for the course?

It depends. If the course focuses on the therapeutic purposes of those drugs, it may be possible to claim C.E. credit. If the course focuses solely on the cosmetic procedures that utilize these drugs, only a dentist who holds a facial cosmetic surgery permit may claim C.E. credit.


16 California Code of Regulations §§1015-1017

Applications referenced in the article may be found at

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