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What is the American Board of Endodontics?

What is the American Board of Endodontics and Why Should I Care?

A Joint Message from Drs. Garry L. Myers and W. Craig Noblett

Garry L. Myers, D.D.S.
2017-2018 AAE President

W. Craig Noblett, D.D.S., M.S.
2017-2018 ABE President

What is the American Board of Endodontics and why should I care? Thankfully this is not a statement that is heard often today from our members, but in the not-too-distant past it was a common thought among endodontists who were not yet Board-certified. Many of our members know that establishing the ABE was required to secure recognition of endodontics as a specialty in dentistry. What most do not know is that the continued activities of the Board, specifically the examination process and certification of a significant number of new endodontists, is required to maintain that specialty recognition. For that reason alone, we should all care about the ABE. During the last re-recognition application process, the low proportion of endodontists who were Board-certified was a topic of conversation, and although that did not prevent endodontics from continuing as a specialty, the message was received.  During the past few years, the Board has taken several steps to make the process more approachable and to remove barriers, real or perceived, to encourage a greater number of endodontists to pursue their certification while still maintaining the integrity and standards of the examination process.

The first significant change involved the administration of the written exam. Moving the date from November to May allows candidates to take the exam prior to graduating from their program along with taking the exam close to home with the addition of Pearson-Vue Testing Centers as the exam venue. A November trip to Chicago is no longer required to take the written exam. The next change involved moving the oral exam to the American Board of Orthodontics testing center in St. Louis, which now allows the examination of up to 200 candidates per year instead of only 40-50 candidates allowed with the previous arrangements. To further encourage those who have started but have not yet completed the process, any successful written, oral or case portfolio exam is now accepted in perpetuity. No one has to take an exam over again if they have already passed it once, so a candidate can literally pick up where he or she left off. If eligibility has expired, it can be re-established with a simple application.

The result of these changes has been a significant increase in the number of new Diplomates.  We have moved from having only 15 percent of endodontists being Board-certified to over 24 percent. With our next re-recognition application on the horizon, endodontics can now demonstrate an appreciable change in the proportion of Board-certified members, as well as an increase in those pursuing the process of Board certification.

While this is a heartening trend, the Board continues to evaluate the certification process for areas of improvement to encourage increased participation among our members. This is done in conjunction with psychometricians and other dental specialty boards to ensure our exam process is relevant and fair. The Board recently has established contact with a medical specialty board for further collaboration and exploration of options. Collaboration with graduate program directors also has become a priority. Working together, the message about Board Certification can and should start during the graduate program so that every newly graduated endodontist will participate in the process. Completion of an accredited endodontic graduate program should prepare, inspire and develop the resolve of our young endodontists to become Board-certified. The College of Diplomates provides another resource for candidates preparing for the board exam process. This separate and distinct organization consists of Board-certified members willing to mentor Board-eligible candidates as they progress through the steps of becoming a Diplomate.

While becoming Board-certified does not imply that one is clinically superior to another non-certified endodontist, board certification will result in the professional growth of any individual completing this process. This sentiment has been echoed time and again each year from our newly pinned Diplomates. Personal growth, professional enrichment and supporting the recognition of this specialty profession will far surpass one’s expectations upon becoming a Board-certified endodontist. For our members who are not yet Diplomates — take on the challenge! For those of our members who are Diplomates — encourage and mentor your colleagues who have not yet completed this journey. Individually and collectively we will all benefit!

Board certification is an accomplishment that inspires great pride in one’s self and instills confidence from patients. Achieving this goal will go far toward making one’s professional life an exclamation, not an explanation. Become a Diplomate of the ABE — this will help our specialty thrive for years to come.

"Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are probably right." — Henry Ford