For many dentists around the world, practicing dentistry in the U.S.A. is the ultimate goal and dream. One of the many reasons for being an international dentist is the high-paying jobs in the healthcare sector in the U.S.A. and dentists are considered one of the top taxpayers in the country.
What are the differences? Why are so many Indian dentists opting to practice abroad? Dentistry is a highly respected profession abroad. The government in these countries regulates dental billings, so the people usually don't bargain and pay as per regulations. People have dental insurance, so they avail their insurance and visit their dentist regularly, which keeps the cycle moving. Work-life balance is well maintained at clinics. Doctors don't usually work overtime.
So now to get started, the most common questions are: Can I practice in the U.S.A. without studying again in college? Where should I start? Now, when we talk about dentistry in the U.S.A., it is going to be a long way to start practicing in a foreign country as an international dentist. There are going to be various options, to begin with, and it will eventually depend on how much work you are willing to put into the process and how much freedom you want to practice in the U.S.A.
As studying in dental school in the U.S.A. for their citizens is a long process and very time-consuming. They usually apply to dental school after completing undergrad college education (i.e., after high school - 11th and 12th grade). Students are supposed to finish 4 years of undergrad college graduation, which are often known as pre-med or pre-dental years). Studying in dental school is another 4 years of education - the first 2 years as preclinical years and the next 2 years as clinical years. After which the students have to take the regional licensing exam to apply for the state dental licenses.
Now some of the options are:
Option 1 - DDS/DMD: This is the most commonly taken route by most foreign-trained dentists. The DDS/DMD programs allow foreign-trained dentists to be admitted into dental schools in the third year of the conventional D.D.S. program or a separate 2-year International program (also known as Advanced Standing Programs or International Dental Programs) specifically for foreign dentists. This option would give you an American Dental degree (DDS/DMD)and allow you to practice anywhere in the U.S.A. This is the only option for a foreign-trained dentist to obtain a practicing license in any state. For these programs, the international students need to write the license exam - iNBDE, when starting the process of applying to dental school.
Option 2 - M.S./Specialty Programs: This is another route that is taken by international dentists. But it also has certain limitations. One can pursue a specialty in Periodontics, Prosthodontics, Endodontics, Orofacial pain, Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, and Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology. The program may be 2 - 3 years long, depending on the school and specialty. Some advantages of these programs are that it will be the continuation of a bachelor's program acquired in your home country. Another benefit will be the direct specialization of a subject, hence saving time. Also, the program will be more financially viable than D.D.S. A limitation to this option is that these programs will allow you to practice only in certain states in the U.S.A. The states are Nevada, West Virginia, Louisiana, Connecticut, Illinois, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Indiana, Florida, and Michigan. In granting licensure by credentials or reciprocity, the foreign dentists are allowed to practice in other states like California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Alaska based on their current licensure and active, continuous practice for a specified time (typically 5 years) in another jurisdiction, without further theoretical and clinical examination. To check out more about dental licensure by state, click on the link below.
Option 3 - Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD): These programs are usually conducted in a dental school, community health center, or military facility and provide experience with comprehensive patient care for all population groups. The program duration is usually 12 - 24 months, depending on which school you choose. An advantage of this option is that these programs generally have no tuition fee, and the candidates are often paid a stipend. A limitation to this option again will be the allowance of practicing only in certain states depending on the 12 months and 24 months training program. The states are Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, and Virginia. These programs are often more competitive because of being the least expensive.
Option 4 - General Practice Residency (GPR): This is one of the trending options to practice dentistry in the U.S.A. This program is usually available for 12 months or 24 months. The significant distinction between the AEGD and GPR programs is the emphasis that the AEGD program places on clinical dentistry in contrast to the focus on medical management in the GPR program. An advantage of this program is that it is generally sponsored by either a hospital or a hospital-affiliated institution such as a dental school. A GPR program also has a limited license for practicing in only specific states. The states are Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, and Virginia. To check out more in detail about Specialty or AEGD or GPR, please refer to the link below.
Option 5 - Faculty Dentist: Another option for some highly qualified foreign-trained dentists is to work as a faculty member in a dental school. Some states would allow a foreign dentist to take a full-time faculty position to practice within the dental school with a faculty license. In Massachusetts, foreign dentists can be eligible for Dental Intern Limited Licensure or Full-Time Faculty Limited Licensure. The Limited license allows the international dentist to practice in a dental school, hospital, public health clinic, hospital, or prison. All of these will be under the supervision of a Massachusetts licensed dentist. The validity of limited licenses is for one year and may be renewed for up to five years. To extend the license beyond five years, the foreign-trained dentist has to pass the NERB (North East Regional Examining Board). The Faculty license allows the international dentist to practice as a full-time faculty member in a dental school under the supervision of a Massachusetts-licensed dentist. The licenses are renewed every year, but unlike the limited license can be renewed indefinitely. To find more about the faculty positions, you need to check individual university web pages for these positions and contact them directly asking them to consider you for the position. This faculty licensure requires that you have a valid job offer to be able to apply. To check out more and apply for the license, click on the link below.
Option 6 - Practice as a dentist in Minnesota (No need to study at U.S. Dental School): Yes, you read it right. Minnesota is the only state in the U.S.A. that grants a license to practice dentistry without any additional training or going to dental school in the U.S.A. The Minnesota Board of Dentistry considers qualified international dentists from non-accredited dental schools around the world for practicing in Minnesota state. However, there is a requirement to pass the dental license exam (iNBDE) and the English proficiency test (TOEFL) to apply. The board members review the submitted applications on a first come - first serve basis. Once your application is reviewed and if found suitable, interviews and a bench test will take place. Once the candidate is passed these steps, they need to practice under a Minnesota-certified and experienced dentist for at least 3 years. Upon completion of the 3 years, the candidate is eligible to start their dental practice. Please click on the links below for Minnesota Board of Dentistry, TOEFL, and iNBDE information.
Option 7 - Advanced Clinical Training Program (ACT): This option is quite a hidden gem and not many international dentists know about it. The Advanced Clinical Training Program is conducted at UCLA School of Dentistry in Los Angeles, California. The program is for two years, offering specialization in the field of Restorative Dentistry and Endodontics. The goal of this non-CODA-accredited program is to educate trainees on the knowledge and skills equivalent to a two-year Operative Dentistry or Restorative Dentistry Program, and to become competitive candidates for DDS/DMD or Post-doc accredited programs in the USA. A certificate is awarded upon successful completion of the two-year program. Although this is not a CODA-accredited program, some states such as California and Illinois in the U.S. may allow two-year graduates the opportunity for licensure. The admission requirement is quite similar to DDS program except that you can write the iNBDE even while completing the 2-year program. Please click on the links below to know about the program in detail.
This blog is written after gathering information from different websites and by enquiring with Indian dentists who are studying or practicing dentistry in the U.S.A. I'll be updating the blog with new information about the same again as the information is subject to change with time. I hope this information helps everyone. Good luck!