Pathways for Practice as a Foreign Trained Dentist in the US

The Advanced Standing Program for internationally trained dentists does not focus on a specialization but rather on all subjects taught in dental school. It is a bridge course making an international dentist equivalent to any US-trained dentist. With this program, you will repeat two years of dental training to be eligible for dental license in the US.

As an internationally trained dentist, what are the different ways that I can practice dentistry in the United States?

This blog will explore the various pathways that Foreign Trained Dentists have to practice in the United States, as well as delve into the honest pros and cons of each journey.

As someone who was in your shoes until recently and asked myself the same question, it has taken me years of research to arrive at an answer, and understand the different options that are available for internationally trained dentists like myself to be able to practice in the United States. My goal is to lay this out for you in a simplified manner, and eliminate that intermediary process for you, thereby saving you precious time.

Pathways for Internationally Trained Dentists:

· Most states in the United States require a DDS/DMD degree from a CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) accredited dental school in the United States.

· Few states in the US allow you to take up licensing exams and practice as a dentist with specialty training certificates, without having a DDS/DMD degree.

Before we delve into the different pathways for internationally trained dentists to practice in the United States, lets discuss what CODA is.

CODA: CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) is the only agency that validates and accredits all dental and dental related educational institutions in the United States. For licensure to practice in the US, most states require you to have a completed CODA accredited dental program.

The courses which ALLOW you to take the licensing board exams and practice dentistry in the United States are:


1.) DDS/DMD Degree:

Doctor of Dental Surgery/ Doctor of Dental Medicine

This is the degree that is awarded after completing 2-3 years of the Advanced Standing Program offered by about 38 Dental Schools in the United States, which is spread over 24 states. The years of education required will vary according to the school you attend.

After graduating from this program, you are eligible to take the licensing exams at any of the 50 states you wish to practice in.

The Advanced Standing Program for internationally trained dentists does not focus on a specialization but rather on all subjects taught in dental school. It is a bridge course making an international dentist equivalent to any US-trained dentist. With this program, you will repeat two years of dental training to be eligible for dental licensure in the US.

About 38 dental schools out of sixty-six dental schools are currently accepting international students. These dental schools in the US offer opportunities to foreign-trained dentists to participate in a, usually 24-month long D.D.S program (Advanced Standing Program). There are different pathways for foreign-trained dentists but students usually join the second-year class by participating in all ongoing preclinical and laboratory courses, as well as, an additional specially-designed preclinical laboratory/seminar program.

Following the successful completion of the second year, students are fully integrated into the class where they take part in all academic and clinical experiences in the third and fourth years of dental school. In the advanced standing program for foreign trained dentists, the class size varies for each university with the highest being Boston University which admits 85 international dentists each year. Entry requirements include passing scores on the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Part I and/or Part II and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), graduation from a foreign dental school and prior transcripts. Several advanced standing programs also require that applicants undergo a psycho-motor bench test, case presentations and a formal interview as part of the application process.

Some dental schools may have specific visa and immigration requirements as well.


Schools that accept candidates on B1/B2 visa and offer student visa F1 to study in the university are:

· University of Michigan

· Boston University

· University of California, Los Angeles

· University of Southern California

· University of Pennsylvania

· Indiana University

· Howard University

· University of Colorado

· University of Pacific

· Virginia Commonwealth University

· Rutgers University

· University of Washington

· University of Pittsburgh

· University of San Antonio

· University of Southern Illinois

· University of Buffalo

· Loma Linda University

· Temple University


Schools that only accept candidates with Green card and Permanent resident status are:

· University of Illinois at Chicago

· University of Alabama

· New York University

· University of Oklahoma

· University of Florida

· Tufts University


Minnesota is the only state which currently accepts license applications from international dentists without additional training. They will evaluate each application and make the decision as to who qualifies.


How do I choose the right school for me?

If you are someone who has been fortunate to have received multiple acceptances, you might be asking yourself, ‘Now how do I choose the best school for myself?’

When selecting the right school for you, find out the subjects you will be studying and the type of marking system used. Student to faculty ratio is important if you need more individual attention. Research about the type of clinics you will be working in, the community of patients you will be treating, and above all the amount of laboratory work you will be doing since these factors are pertinent and will help you in making a better decision.

The main factors which are important in your decision-making process are:

· Cost of education

· Number of patients the school receives: Some schools such as The University of Colorado, are unique in that they are the only school in the entire state. Because of this, the school has a large patient flow. This would be a huge factor to consider when deciding a school to attend.

· Cost of living in the area: Some states (California, New York) have a higher cost of living than other states (Texas, Colorado). If this is something that is important to you, you should look into it in great detail.

· Years of education

· Family considerations



2.) AEGD

Advanced Education in General Dentistry

This program provides advanced training in clinical dentistry and applied basic sciences.

You can apply for this course directly as an international dentist or after completing your DDS/DMD degree (To get more clinical exposure). The AEGD program can either be done as a 12 month or 24-month course.

After graduating from the AEGD course, (If you have not also obtained the DDS/DMD degree) you can only practice in 5-6 states as a clinical practitioner, irrespective of which state you do the course from.

AEGD programs for international dentists

· University of Connecticut

· Nova Southeastern University

· University of Maryland

· Boston University

· Temple University, Kornberg School of Dentistry


3.) GPR

General Practice Residency

The General Practice Residency Program is similar to the AEGD, but provides extensive hospital exposure and focuses on surgery, prosthetics skills, as well as special needs and severely medically compromised patients.

Almost all GPR programs require you to have a DDS degree (There are exceptions to this)

The GPR program can be done as a 12-month program with an optional 24-month program.

Like AEGD, very limited states grant you licence to practice after finishing only the GPR course without DDS/DMD.

Universities which offer GPR Programs for international dentists:

· Howard University

· Tufts University

· MetroHealth Medical Center

· Abington Memorial Hospital


4.) Specialty training/ Residencies

An international dentist could join an accredited post-graduate program and apply for a license thereafter instead of going back to dental school. This is not an option for most states however, as most of the states require international dentists to graduate from an accredited US dental school. A dental residency program for foreign trained dentists, provides education and training in a specific subject. This is similar to how a post-graduation program would be in your home country. Admissions to a residency program are facilitated via the National Matching Service which makes it more competitive.


CODA recognizes the following specialties:

· Dental Public Health

· Endodontics

· Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

· Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology

· Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology

· Orthodontics

· Paediatric Dentistry

· Periodontology

· Prosthodontics

Not all schools offer all of these programs to internationally trained dentists. Some require you to have a PR (Permanent Residencies), green card or citizenship, while some require you to have a DDS/DMD degree.

The competition is cut throat because almost every DDS/DMD graduate also applies for the same residency spots. As these candidates already have their DDS/DMD in hand, they will be at an advantage of having the opportunity to volunteer/research assist and build their knowledge and skillset in that subject during their DDS/DMD.

Nevertheless, if your profile is good and you have a few good years of experience, this is an option for internationally trained dentists to be able to practice specialty dentistry in the US without a DDS/DMD degree.

Listed below are the states to which an internationally-trained dentist may apply for licensure (With/without DDS/DMD) after completion of an ADA accredited residency program, as per specific requirements of each state:

· Connecticut

· Illinois

· Michigan

· Mississippi

· Oregon

· Texas

· Wisconsin

· Massachusetts

Disadvantages of dental residency programs for foreign trained dentists:

· License to practice dentistry is limited to only a few states

· Difficulty in acclimatizing to the different manner in which dentistry is practiced in the US

· No remuneration for internationally trained dentists pursuing residency (without DDS/DMD)


Advantages of dental residency programs:

The upside of residency programs is that they are usually a cheaper option than going to dental school and depending on the program, you might get paid a stipend. Also, if you go for a specialty, you’ll be a specialist when you complete the program and more likely to start at higher pay when you begin to work.

Now you might be wondering, ‘What are the universities that offer residencies to internationally trained dentists?’


Mentioned below are all of the universities that accept non-US international dentists, categorized according to the residency program

Endodontics

· USC Ostrow School of Dentistry

· Loma Linda University

· Georgia Health Sciences University

· University of Illinois at Chicago

· Indiana University

· University of Louisville

· Louisiana State University School of Dentistry

· University of Maryland

· Boston University

· Harvard School of Dental Medicine

· Tufts University

· New York University College of Dentistry

· University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

· Temple University, Kornberg School of Dentistry

· University of Pennsylvania

· University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston

· Baylor College of Dentistry/Texas A&M Health Science Center

· West Virginia University

Geriatric Dentistry

· USC Ostrow School of Dentistry

· Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Dental Public Health

• University of Arizona School of Dentistry

• Harvard School of Dental Medicine

• Boston University

Implantology

· Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Operative Dentistry

· USC Ostrow School of Dentistry

· Boston University

· University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology

· University of Florida

· Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Oral Medicine

• Harvard School of Dental Medicine

• University of Pennsylvania

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology

· University of Connecticut

· University of Iowa

· University of Northern Carolina

· University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

· University of Washington (Graduate from accredited dental school preferred)

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

· University of Florida, Jacksonville

· University of Maryland, Baltimore

· University of Maryland, MD – Integrated OMS Residency

· Tufts University

· Boston University

· University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

· University of Puerto Rico

Orthodontics

· University of Alabama at Birmingham

· University of California, San Francisco

· University of the Pacific, San Francisco

· University of Connecticut

· Washington Hospital Center

· Nova Southeastern University

· Indiana University

· University of Louisville

· University of Kentucky

· Louisiana State University School of Dentistry

· University of Maryland

· Harvard School of Dental Medicine

· Tufts University

· Boston University

· University of Detroit Mercy Dental School

· University of Michigan

· University of Nebraska Medical Center

· Rutgers School of Dental Medicine

· New York University College of Dentistry

· University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

· The Ohio State University

· Temple University, Kornberg School of Dentistry

· University of Pennsylvania

· University of Puerto Rico

· Medical University of South Carolina

· University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

· Baylor College of Dentistry/Texas A&M Health Science Center

· University of Washington

· West Virginia University

Paediatric Dentistry

· University of Alabama at Birmingham

· USC Ostrow School of Dentistry

· University of California, San Francisco

· Loma Linda University

· University of Connecticut

· Nova Southeastern University

· Louisiana State University School of Dentistry

· University of Maryland

· Boston University

· Children’s Hospital, Boston

· Tufts University

· Rutgers School of Dental Medicine

· University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

· University of Puerto Rico

· University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

· University of Washington

Periodontics

· University of Alabama at Birmingham

· Loma Linda University

· USC Ostrow School of Dentistry

· University of California, San Francisco

· Nova Southeastern University

· University of Louisville

· Louisiana State University School of Dentistry

· Tufts University

· Boston University

· Stony Brook University – School of Dental Medicine

· University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

· Temple University, Kornberg School of Dentistry

· University of Pennsylvania

Periodontics Prosthesis

· University of Pennsylvania

Prosthodontics

· University of Alabama at Birmingham

· University of California, San Francisco

· University of Connecticut

· Nova Southeastern University

· University of Illinois at Chicago

· Indiana University

· University of Louisville

· Louisiana State University School of Dentistry

· University of Maryland

· Harvard School of Dental Medicine

· Tufts University

· Boston University

· University of Rochester Eastman Dental Center

· New York University College of Dentistry

· Ohio State University

· University of Pittsburgh

· University of Tennessee Health Science Center, College of Dentistry, Memphis

· Baylor College of Dentistry/Texas A&M Health Science Center

· Marquette University

All information on pathways for foreign-trained dentists is subject to change, so please verify all information before putting it to use. Make sure you look into the specific requirements of the particular school of interest before applying.


Dental residency program vs. D.D.S:

As an international dentist, how do I decide whether to pursue a dental residency program, or DDS/DMD (Advanced Standing Program)

Apart from already discussing the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a dental residency instead of a DDS/DMD, let’s start with discussing about how a dental residency program is different from D.D.S.

As mentioned before, a dental residency provides education and training in a particular subject, just like a post-graduation program would in your home country. Also, admissions to a residency program are facilitated via the National Matching Service which makes it more competitive. You must be able to choose the best dental residency program for international students.

D.D.S. on the other hand, is an advanced standing program which does not focus on a specialization but rather on all subjects taught in a dental school. It is basically a bridge course making you equivalent to any US-trained dentist in which you repeat two years of dental training to get license to practice in the United States.

What factors would influence the decision of choosing a dental residency program for international students?

· Availability of programs: There are 9 CODA approved specialties which accept foreign dentists. Specialty programs are usually two to three years in duration, maximum being six years for oral surgery.

· Determine costs: Studying at a dental school is a huge investment which requires taking loans and having a sponsor in the U.S. Hence, do a thorough research about both the tuition and living expenses before applying. Explore the options for scholarships available as well.

· Location of the School: You can consider the type of community in that area and the climate of that region since not everyone can survive the cold weather.

· Campus and Student Life: You will be spending nearly 3 years in dental school or more, so you want your student life to be productive as well as fun. Most dental schools organize many co-curricular activities and have a variety of clubs and organizations to participate in. Sports and other activities will help you to be disciplined and de-stress from your hectic work schedule.

Choosing the right school and program for you as an international student is a major step towards achieving your goal of living and practicing in the US. Therefore, make sure you research thoroughly before applying to a dental school. Your experience as a dental student or resident will shape your future. Talk directly to students and teachers of the school you want to attend and take a tour of the school if possible.


Foreign-trained dentists have many career options available. What you ultimately choose depends on how much work you are willing to put in the process and how much freedom you want to have when practicing in the US.


To conclude, this is a brief overview of the pathways you can take as a foreign trained dentist to obtain license and practice clinical dentistry in the United States. Each state and school have different requirements and eligibility criteria for all of these courses. Some of these courses also require a specific visa type as well. This blog is meant to explain the different options you have as a foreign trained dentist looking at practicing clinical dentistry in the US, and hence, encourage you to explore those options that are well suited for you.

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