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Washington State Dental Association


All dentists and dental hygienists must complete continuing education hours annually in order to renew their license. Expanded Function Dental Auxiliaries, dental assistants, and other staff providing direct patient care are also required to maintain basic life support certifications. The Department of Health's regulations regarding CE can be daunting — with regard to how much is required, in what areas, how to document it, and how you can obtain it. We have compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the DOH's CE requirements.

How many hours of CE are needed per year and who within the office is required to complete CE annually?

Dentists must complete 21 hours of CE annually, dental hygienists must complete 15 hours annually. Continuing education must be completed each year in conjunction with your annual renewal date (your birthday).

To find out when your CE hours are due, you can look on your courtesy renewal card and the due date will be listed under the fees section. You can also use the Provider/Facility Search to look up your license and it will reference your CE due date.

Dental staff providing direct patient care in an in-office or out-patient setting must hold a current and valid health care provider basic life support (BLS) certification. BLS training can be counted toward CE hours. Additionally, there are CE requirements associated with using varying degrees of anesthesia. See below for more information.

How do I document that I have completed my CE requirement? Is the CE verified?

All dentists and hygienists must sign an attestation that they have fulfilled their CE requirement. The attestation is part of the annual renewal process. You do not need to send copies of continuing education certificates to the DOH. DOH has the authority to audit CE records, but they will contact you if this is needed. CE audits are currently being conducted.

What CE is needed to administer anesthesia and how often?

To administer minimal sedation a dentist must complete a course in either dental school or postgraduate instruction. The length of course required depends upon the method of minimal sedation (WAC 246-817-740, WAC 246-817-745): To administer nitrous oxide or minimal sedation with a single oral agent, a dentist must have completed a sedation course awarding a minimum of 14 hours of CE in dental school or postgraduate instruction.

In order to administer any oral agent in combination with a different agent or multiple agents other than nitrous oxide a dentist must have completed a sedation course awarding a minimum of 21 hours of CE in dental school or postgraduate instruction.

In addition to the 14 or 21 hour training requirement stated above, a dentist must participate in seven hours of continuing education every five years. The continuing education must include instruction in one or more of the following areas: sedation physiology, pharmacology, inhalation analgesia, patient evaluation, patient monitoring, or medical emergencies. (WAC 246-817-740, WAC 246-817-745). The Pacific Northwest Dental Conference (PNDC) in June offers two courses each year that satisfy this requirement.

Are there other ways to obtain CE without going to classes?

Volunteer services can count toward continuing education if dentists are providing care to target populations. DQAC determined that if a dentist obtains some specialized training or education, prior to providing services to a specific population, up to seven continuing education hours could be accumulated per reporting cycle. Ex: ABCD, Smilemobile, Special Olympics.

Study club hours are an acceptable source of CE, provided that the coursework is designed to enhance the professional knowledge and development of the practitioner or enhance services provided to the patients.

Up to seven hours of CE can be completed through self-study. This includes educational audio or video tapes, films, slides or independent reading. Some form of assessment is required upon completion.

Teaching a seminar or clinical course for the first time is acceptable but may not exceed ten hours per year.
BLS, CPR, ACLS, OSHA/WISHA or emergency related training can also be counted toward continuing education hours.

How does the WSDA help you track your CE credits?

As a membership benefit, the WSDA will track your CE credits through the WSDA database CE tracking system. Scan/swipe your WSDA membership card at your local component society, participating study clubs, or at any PNDC lecture or workshop and your CE will be uploaded to your record.  You may also manually add additional course credits into the CE tracking system if you were unable to swipe your membership card.

How does the WSDA help you obtain CE credits?

The WSDA offers a series of webinars throughout the year. Webinars are an easy way to earn CE in the comfort of your home or office. All WSDA webinars are recorded and posted online  here.

The Pacific Northwest Dental Conference (PNDC), held annually in June, is an affordable way for dentists to receive up to 18.5 CDE credits. All other attendees can earn as many as 14 credits. The cost of a full conference badge includes access to more than 80 lectures and entrance to the exhibit hall.

How long do you need to keep a record of your CE?

The Department of Health states that you must keep documentation of your CE hours for four years. If audited, dental practitioners must prove compliance through course or program certificates of training or transcripts.

Will the Department of Health give any extensions for completing CE?

Dentists can be excused or granted an extension on their continuing education requirement due to sickness or extenuating circumstances. Extension requests should be made several weeks prior to your license renewal date.

Are there rules about the content that my CE must cover?

Continuing education course work must contribute to the professional knowledge and development of the practitioner, or enhance services provided to patients. Click here for continuing education requirements including limits to how many hours of CE can be accumulated in certain areas.

For more information, please contact Laura Rohlman at


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