What is the INBDE?

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Reviewed by
Dr. Joel Meyerson
Key Takeaway
Table of Contents

    What is the INBDE? 

    The INBDE is a written board examination that fulfills all or part of the written examination requirements for dental licensure (most states require a clinical examination for licensure, too). The INBDE is accepted by all U.S. states and territories. It is administered by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examination (JCNDE), an agency of the American Dental Association (ADA).

    The INBDE integrates the biomedical, clinical, and behavioral sciences in its evaluation of a candidate’s dental cognitive skills. The INBDE is designed to assess the “just qualified dentist”. It tests the minimum requirements needed for the safe and effective practice of dentistry. 

    Exam history

    The INBDE replaced the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Parts I and II. The INBDE was first introduced in August 2020, while the NBDE Parts I and II were phased out by the end of 2022. The INBDE was designed to integrate the biomedical sciences tested in the NBDE Part I with the clinical sciences tested in the NBDE Part II.

    While questions on the NBDE Parts I and II were sometimes described as random or obscure, the INBDE is a more practical examination, focusing on realistic application of dental school coursework and clinical training (though sometimes the INBDE can be random and obscure too).

    In the clinical practice of dentistry, a dental provider must be able to integrate a patient’s medical and dental history with the patient’s presenting chief complaint and clinical findings. The INBDE was designed to test the patient-centered approach to care needed for contemporary practice. 

    Exam scores

    INBDE results are reported as “pass” or “fail”. The threshold to pass is determined by the specific examination a candidate is administered. Each exam has a unique set of questions with varying difficulties, and the JCNDE calculates INBDE scores based on question responses in conjunction with the known characteristics of administered questions (i.e. the question difficulty).

    Some questions on the INBDE are experimental and are not scored. Candidates are not told whether a question is scored or experimental, but the data collected on unscored questions is used to determine whether a question is appropriate in future administrations of the INBDE.

    INBDE Pro-Tip: Don’t be discouraged if you come across questions that seem extremely challenging, random, or unfair! There is a possibility this question is simply being tested by JCNDE and is not scored. Choose your best guess, recollect yourself, and move forward with confidence! 

    Candidate performance is standardized to a “scale score”. A scale score does not represent the number of questions answered correctly – it is a standardized score that allows the JCNDE to meaningfully compare the performance of one applicant with the performance of all applicants. A minimum scale score of 75 represents the passing threshold. Passing candidates are not provided with their scale score. Failing candidates are provided with their scale score and a detailed breakdown of their performance. 

    So, how do you pass the INBDE? Let’s talk about what is actually tested on the exam.

    What is tested on the INBDE?

    The INBDE tests the integration of the biomedical, clinical, and behavioral sciences. This integration occurs through the Domain of Dentistry, which represents the Clinical Content and Foundation Knowledge areas needed for the safe and effective practice for entry-level providers. 

    The INBDE maps the percentage of questions that must be linked to each Clinical Content and Foundation Knowledge areas. This means that although each candidate receives a unique set of questions, each candidate is tested on the same breakdown of Clinical Content and Foundation Knowledge areas. 

    Clinical Content areas

    The INBDE tests fifty-six Clinical Content areas, grouped into three component sections:

    • Diagnosis and treatment planning
    • Oral health management
    • Practice and profession

    The Clinical Content areas represent the tasks entry-level providers must be able to perform. A detailed breakdown of the fifty-six Clinical Content areas may be found here.

    Foundation Knowledge areas

    The INBDE tests ten Foundation Knowledge areas. The Foundation Knowledge areas represent the knowledge, skills, and abilities that underlie performance of the Clinical Content areas. 

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