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  • Writer's pictureThe Dental Booth

Road to DDS in the USA

As we have discussed in the previous post about various pathways to practice dentistry in the USA.

In this post, we'll be discussing the steps for DDS in the United States. So when you begin your preparation for DDS, you will often come across some of these questions.

What exactly is a DDS/DMD degree?

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.

What is the cost of a DDS program?

The cost of a DDS - Advanced Standing Program varies from school to school. The fees range from the lowest being $180,000 to the highest being $400,000. There are also additional expenses like living expenses, health insurance, etc. These expenses also depend on the location of the dental school.

How much does an international dentist earn after dental school?

Although the cost of dental school education is very expensive, most international dentists take loans from the US or their home country. This leaves most of them in debt after finishing dental school. But the good part is the entire journey is worth it in the end with a good return on investments. The average salary for a dentist is around $180,000 - $270,000 annually for a new dentist.

Which schools accept international dentists for the Advanced Standing DDS Program?

You can check out the the schools with Advanced Standing DDS program at

How to become eligible to practice dentistry in the U.S.?

A dental license gives you the legal right to practice independently as a general dentist in the state you are applying to obtain a license in. Though requirements vary from state to state, all applicants for dental licensure must meet three basic requirements:

  1. An education requirement

  2. A written examination requirement

  3. A clinical examination requirement

Here are the general steps that foreign-trained dentists should follow while applying for DDS or Advancing Standing Program in the USA:

Step 1: Know the application cycle for dental schools.

The application process happens in 4 phases:

1st Phase - CAAPID and Application (usually March to June)

2nd Phase - Interview Calls and Bench Tests for some dental schools (typically July to October)

3rd Phase - Acceptance to dental schools (usually September to November)

4th Phase - School starts (usually somewhere between March to June)

Now that you know the application cycle, it is easier for you to plan accordingly while applying to dental schools. It is important to typically apply well in advance a year before you wish to join the school.

Step 2: Get a DENTPIN.

Applications for the NBDE examination programs are processed through the American Dental Association's (ADA) Department of Testing Services. The first step in the application process is getting a DENTPIN (Dental Personal Identifier Number), a unique personal identifier for professionals and students involved in the USA dental education system and standardized testing programs.

Step 3: ECE/ WES Evaluation.

Since the USA has a GPA system and not a percentage system, most U.S. dental schools will require you to get your dental diploma and transcripts evaluated by one of the accredited evaluation institutes (ECE: Educational Credential Evaluators ( or WES: World Education Services ( They will be converting your education marks and hours (from your home country) to something accepted in the USA, i.e., the GPA system. The cost of each of these evaluations is in the range of $200 - $250.

P.S.: Most U.S. dental schools show a requirement for ECE evaluation, only a few need WES evaluation.

Step 4: INBDE (Integrated National Board of Examination).

INBDE is the exam that all international dentists take to qualify for applying to dental schools either for DDS or most other programs like M.S./ Speciality Programs, AEGD, and GPR Program. The INBDE is a single integrated exam that has the purpose to assists state boards of dentistry in evaluating candidates for dental licensure. By integrating content covering the basic, behavioral, and clinical sciences, the INBDE is a 500-item examination that will be administered via computer at test centers throughout the United States and US territories. It will take one and a half days to complete. The cost of INBDE is around $1,110.

Step 5: TOEFL Examination.

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is an online proficiency test administered by ETS that measures your ability to use and understand English at the university level. Most U.S. dental schools require that you demonstrate your English language proficiency by taking the TOEFL. The test has sections that test your writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills. This exam can be taken from your home country. The exam score is valid for 2 years, so you need to finish your application cycle within those 2 years, or you may have to retake the test. The exam fee is around $200 - $240.

Step 6: Research and deciding the dental school program.

In this step, you'll have to research and decide which schools you wish to apply to, depending on your priorities. While doing your research on dental schools, you'll have to look for the application requirements, deadlines, fees, curriculum, and location.

During this time, you should start with mastering your Statement of Purpose (SOP), Resumes, and Letter of Recommendations (LORs). While building up your application, be sure to emphasize any of the following that can help differentiate you from other candidates.

  • Master's degree in the U.S.

  • Additional certifications in the Dental field (e.g., Expanded Duty Dental Assistant).

  • Volunteer in community services.

  • Bench test preparatory course.

  • Externship/Observerships (Preceptorships programs) offered in Dental schools.

  • Research.

  • Publications.

  • Paper and Poster Presentations.

  • Honors.

  • Continuing dental education courses.

Step 7: CAAPID Cycle - Apply to dental schools.

The cycle starts in March and is usually till June. But some schools have the cycle process extending after June as well on a rolling basis.

In the CAAPID cycle, you'll be applying to the dental schools and send all the required documents to each school you're applying to. You'll also need multiple sealed copies of TOEFL, ECE, and INBDE reports to submit to the university, so order them prior. The cost of the first dental school application is around $260. The application fee decreases for the next schools you apply to. Some schools also have additional supplemental applications and their respective fee.

Step 8: Interview calls and Bench test.

Once all your applications are submitted to the dental schools, you'll receive interview calls from the schools. Some schools also have a bench test, along with interviews. These are the final stages of your entire process of applying to dental schools in the U.S. So do not be nervous at this crucial stage.


You need to be calm and have enough faith in yourself to reach this stage. The only thing I would like to say is that even though the road to DDS is not an easy journey. But the process is what matters the most. So give your best shot!

Good luck with the entire process.


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