Things to Know About the INBDE Dental Board Exam

inbde dental exam

The Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE) is the newest exam for candidates seeking dental licensure and will be available for administration starting on August 1, 2020. Any time the dental boards release a significant change to any of their dental licensure certification processes, it causes a lot of uncertainty for anyone affected by it. With all the stress that comes along with studying for the dental boards and keeping up with dental school graduation requirements, we’ve compiled straight forward information about the differences between the new INBDE dental board exam versus the current NBDE exams to help ease student’s minds.

Why is the INBDE replacing the NBDE Parts 1 and 2? 

The INBDE will replace the National Board Dental Examinations (NBDE) Part I and Part II. The last date to take the NBDE Part 1 will be October 31, 2020, and the NBDE Part 2 will continue until July 31, 2022.

The Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations began to develop the Integrated National Board of Dental Examinations (INBDE) in 2009 to reflect changes in dental school curricula and instructional methods by consolidating basic sciences, behavioral science, and clinical sciences.

The goal was to create an exam based on two key concepts: Clinical Relevance and Integration. The JCNDE defines Clinical Relevance as “factors that impact patient outcomes in clinical/professional contexts” and Integration as, “knowledge of basic, clinical, and/or behavioral sciences along with cognitive skills to understand and solve problems in clinical/professional contexts”. 


One of the reasons why the INBDE Dental board exam came about was because the dental education community claimed that two separate board exams were causing students to pull away from their education training and devoting their time and energy to preparing for two high stakes exams on two separate occasions. Currently, dental licensure candidates take two separate exams: the NBDE Parts I and Parts II. The NBDE Part I is a one-day 8-hours and 30 minutes long exam consisting of 400 questions and is typically taken after the first or second year of dental school. The NBDE Part II is a two-day exam with a total administration time of 12 hours and is made up of 400 discipline-based questions and 100 case-based questions. Candidates usually sit for the exam during the final year of dental school. The INBDE will be a single part 500 question exam administered over two-days and totaling 12 hours and 30 minutes.

INBDE Exam Content

Dental educators have expressed a need for change in dental education because of its “artificial separation of the biomedical and the clinical” and that a more integrated approach to both education and assessment was desired. The NBDE Part 1 has been especially criticized for testing isolated concepts that may not be useful to practicing dentists. Therefore, INBDE test content will rely less on information recall and mechanical knowledge like the NBDE exams called for. It now places more emphasis on the candidate’s decision-making processes in clinical application using their grasp of the basic sciences of dentistry. Candidates should expect more questions that will ask about patient care, how dentists approach the practice of dentistry, and how dentists keep up with advances in the profession.

The INBDE covers biomedical, clinical, and behavioral sciences in its evaluation of candidate dental cognitive skills. INBDE Clinical Content areas represent fundamental tasks that are performed by entry-level general practitioners. These three component sections are: Diagnosis and Treatment Planning (36.2%), Oral Health Management (42.0%), and Practice and Profession (21.8%).

There are 56 areas of fundamental knowledge candidates should master prior to completing the exam cycle. These areas of fundamental knowledge are further divided among the following INBDE subject areas

  • Molecular, biochemical, cellular, and systems-level development, structure, and function: 12.2%
  • Physics and chemistry to explain normal biology and pathobiology: 6.8%
  • Physics and chemistry to explain the characteristics and use of technologies and materials: 8.0%
  • Principles of genetic, congenital and developmental diseases and conditions and their clinical features to understand patient risk: 10.6%
  • Cellular and molecular bases of immune and non-immune host defense mechanisms: 9.0%
  • General and disease-specific pathology to assess patient risk: 11.8%
  • Biology of microorganisms in physiology and pathology: 10.6%
  • Pharmacology: 10.6%
  • Behavioral sciences, ethics, and jurisprudence: 10.6%
  • Research methodology and analysis, and informatics tools: 9.8%

New Question Format: INBDE Patient Box

inbde patient boxes

One of the biggest differences in the INBDE is the “Patient Box,” a new item presentation format. A Patient Box contains patient case information that would be available to the dentist and dental hygienist during their visit. Examinees will need to extrapolate the pertinent information from the Patient Box and apply what they have learned from classes and clinical work to answer the exam questions.


According to the ADA, the average first-year cost of dental school (including tuition and mandatory general fees) in 2018-19 was $53,002 for residents and $69,905 for non-residents. As of 2020, the NBDE Part 1 is $445 and NBDE Part 1 is $490. The cost of dental education and the fee for two exams was considered in the decision to move to a single part exam. As a result, the INBDE costs $680, versus the combined NBDE Part 1 and Part 2 total of $935.  

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