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It’s Time to Imagine License Portability

License portability is a key issue in dental hygiene. I have personally experienced the challenges associated with moving from one state to another as have many of my colleagues.

License portability is a key issue in dental hygiene. I have personally experienced the challenges associated with moving from one state to another as have many of my colleagues. We’ve encountered onerous regulations and the need to retake exams, even if we’ve been practicing for many years. Dental hygienists are left to ask, “Why are my skills questioned just because I’m crossing a state line?” Of course, we know our skills are just as valid in one state as they are in another. Hopefully, barriers will be changing in the near future since a new initiative is in the works to ensure license portability across multiple states.

I recently participated in a call organized by the Council of State Governments (CSG), a branch of the National Center for Interstate Compacts. Through a partnership between the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), American Dental Association, and United States Department of Defense, plans are underway to institute a Mutual Recognition Licensure Compact. 

The CSG is the only national organization that works to develop interstate compacts for various professions. Along with dental hygiene and dentistry, CSG is collaborating with the professions of cosmetology and barbering, massage therapy, social work, and K-12 teaching. According to the CSG website, “Occupational licensure compacts create reciprocity between states while maintaining the quality and safety of services and protecting state sovereignty.”1 


CSG chooses the professions it helps to develop interstate compacts, and the process is a competitive one, with the professional association spearheading the initiative. In the case of dental hygiene, the ADHA led the effort. Some professionals who have already benefitted from interstate licensure compacts include physicians, nurses, emergency medical technicians, physical therapists, and more. 

The CSG states the following advantages to implementing a mutual recognition licensure compact:

  • Practitioners benefit from greater ability to practice geographically due to the opportunity to hold one multistate license valid for practice in all compact states, streamlined licensure requirements, reduced expenses associated with obtaining multiple single-state licenses, and the creation of systems that enable electronic license application processes.
  • State licensure boards benefit by maintaining control over the state practice act and licensure processes, creation of a centralized database of disciplinary action records, authority to require submission to Federal Bureau of Investigation fingerprint-based criminal background checks, and cost savings due to reduced administrative costs.
  • Consumers benefit from a more efficient distribution of services, increased availability of qualified practitioners, and elevated safety standards.

The work has just begun, but it’s truly promising to see this effort. While the initiative is meant to help military spouses in particular, nonmilitary individuals will benefit as well. To learn more, you can listen to a recording of the kick-off meeting for dental hygiene and dentistry at: The website also contains information on how to get involved and keep up-to-date on developments. Imagine … the ability to practice in more than one state without restrictions and the need to take additional exams. It could happen in the near future!

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
[email protected]


  1. National Center for Interstate Compacts. The Council of State Governments. Available at: Accessed September 8, 2021.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. October 2021;19(10):6.

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