Obtaining a U. S. practicing license as a foreign trained dentist

Obtaining a U. S. practicing license as a foreign trained dentist

A Foreign trained dentist is an individual who has attended, graduated and earned a degree from a dental school in a country other than the United States or Canada.


In summary, the current dental system is set in place so that a foreign trained dentist in the U.S. receives the same education as an American trained dentist.


Methods for obtaining a practicing license in the USA defer from states to states but to be licensed to practice in all states, one must obtain a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) from an accredited dental education program. You can do this either by going through the traditional 4 year dental program or the slightly condensed 2-3years advanced standing program for foreign trained dentists.


There are five ways a foreign-trained dentist can obtain license to practice in the U.S., they are:

  • Advanced standing program for international dentists.
  • Applicant’s credentials (no additional U.S. education required)
  • Graduate or residency program
  • License recognition
  • Limited dental license/internship


Advanced standing program for international dentists

Here are some general steps to follow to apply for the advanced training program.

  1. Select a university of your choice: This is to prevent unnecessary hurdles because the criteria for admission differ from university to university. If you haven’t made your choice, most of the next steps are considered “general”.


  1. ECE / WES evaluation: Most US dental schools 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).

A credential evaluation compares academic and professional degrees earned in one country to academic and professional degrees earned in another.

  1. Prepare for and take the National Board of Dental Examination (NBDE) or the Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE) : The NBDE is the United States national dental examination for students and professionals in dentistry. The purpose of the exam is to assist state boards in determining your qualifications to practice dentistry in those states.


The exam is in two parts: NBDE I and NBDE II. (Not all universities require NBDE II).


NBDE I consists of 400 multiple-choice questions emphasizing basic sciences:

  • Human Anatomy, Embryology, and Histology
  •  Biochemistry and Physiology
  • Microbiology and Pathology
  • Dental Anatomy and Occlusion.


NBDE II takes two days and focuses on clinical dental topics:

  • Endodontics
  • Operative Dentistry
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery/Pain Control
  • Oral Diagnosis
  • Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry
  • Patient Management, including Behavioral Science, Dental Public Health and Occupational Safety
  • Periodontics
  • Pharmacology
  • Prosthodontics


Visit the ADA (American Dental Association) website for instructions on taking the exams


NOTE- The NBDE part I will be discontinued as of December 31, 2020, the last date to submit an application for part I is December 15, 2020.


Those who have written or will write NBDE I by December 31, 2020 have until August 1, 2022 to sit for NBDE II, after which administrations of NBDE will no longer be provided.


The NBDE I and II will be replaced by INBDE.


INBDE (Integrated National Board Dental Examination) - it’s the new cognitive examination for dental licensure and it will be written in one part comprising of sciences, pre-clinical and clinical subjects. Click here for updated information.


  1. Take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam: The TOEFL is an online test administered by ETS (Educational Testing Service) that measures your ability to use and understand English at the university level. Most US dental schools require that you demonstrate your English language proficiency by taking the TOEFL.


  1. Improve your competitiveness as an applicant: 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. Annually, there are about 500- 600 seats for 3000 applicants.


Some of the ways to increase your competitiveness is to:

  • Gain dental experience in the United States. This can be done by working as a dental assistant, community service, volunteer work and so on.
  • Master’s degree in the US
  • Research
  • Publications
  • Online courses offered by dental schools in the US
  • Additional certifications in the dental field


  1. Make enquires and apply to a US dental school program: Common application requirements include above average academic credentials, letters of recommendation, a personal interview and statement of interest that demonstrate passion and communication skills


List of U.S. dental schools that offer advanced standing or international dental programs for dentists trained outside of the United States:



University of Alabama School of Dentistry, Birmingham, AL



University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, CA


University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA


Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, Loma Linda, CA


University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA


Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC, Los Angeles, CA


Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine, Pomona, CA



University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, Aurora, CO


District of Columbia

Howard University College of Dentistry, Washington, DC



Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine, Ft. Lauderdale, FL


University of Florida College of Dentistry Gainesville, FL



University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, Chicago, IL


Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine, Alton, IL



Indiana University School of Dentistry, Indianapolis, IN



The University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, Iowa City, IA



University of Maryland School of Dentistry, Baltimore, MD



Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, Boston, MA


Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, Boston, MA



University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ann Arbor, MI



University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, Minneapolis, MN



Creighton University School of Dentistry, Omaha, NE


University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry, Lincoln, NE



University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine, Las Vegas, NV


New Jersey

Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, Newark, NJ


New York

Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, New York, NY


New York University College of Dentistry, New York, NY


University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, Buffalo, NY



University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, Oklahoma City, OK



University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, Philadelphia, PA


University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA


Temple University Kornberg School of Dentistry, Philadelphia, PA


Puerto Rico

University of Puerto Rico, School of Dental Medicine, San Juan, PR



University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry, Houston, TX


University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry, San Antonio, TX



Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, Richmond, VA



University of Washington School of Dentistry, Seattle, WA


West Virginia

West Virginia University School of Dentistry, Morgantown, WV



Marquette University School of Dentistry, Milwaukee, WI


For more information or tips click here.


Applicant’s credentials (No additional U.S. education required)

The only state that grants US practicing dental license without additional US education is the state of Minnesota. However, one still needs to take some exams including NBDE I, NBDE II, and TOEFL. The Board will conduct a review of the applicant’s credentials and education to evaluate the dentist’s dental degree program for equivalency. They consider the course content and credit hours from pre-dental, dental didactic, clinical and lab credit hours required by dental colleges accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association to be critical. Click here for more information


Graduate or residency program

An international dentist could join an accredited post-graduate program and apply a license thereafter instead of going back to school. This includes residency programs, the AEGD (Advanced Education in General Dentistry) and GPR (General Practice Residency). Click here to search for and inquire about other available dental programs.


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.  Admissions to a residency program are facilitated via the National Matching Service.


For additional and up-to-date information, visit the postdoctoral dental matching program.


Some disadvantages include the fact that license to practice dentistry is limited to only a few states and there is no salary for internationally-trained residents in most universities but it has some advantages in that it saves time as it is direct specialization and it is more financially profiting than DDS/DMD.


License recognition

Dental boards in some states grant licenses to dentists to practice in any setting, who are currently licensed and in active, continuous practice for a specified period of time (typically 5 years) in another jurisdiction, without further theoretical and clinical examination. The license recognition system, often referred to as licensure by credentials, may also be referred to as licensure by reciprocity, endorsement, or criteria. For information concerning a state's specific criteria for license recognition, contact the dental board of the state in which license recognition is sought.


The dental boards in the jurisdictions listed below will grant license recognition to dentists:  Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Georgia6 , Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine , Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota , Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina , North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.


U.S. Virgin Islands, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii and Nevada do not currently grant an unrestricted dental license by credentials.


Limited dental license/internship

The state of Massachusetts offer dentists who are foreign-trained or a graduate of a non-CODA program and do not have a U.S. dental license to apply for a dental intern limited license. The limited license allows the dentist to practice in public health clinics, schools, prisons or dental schools under the supervision of a Massachusetts licensed dentist.


The license is renewed on a yearly bases for up to five years. To renew the license indefinitely and practice as a full faculty member in a dental school, the applicant is required to pass the NERB (North East Regional examining Board).Most faculty licensure requires that you have a valid job in order to apply.


It is advisable and important to search the requirements for the state in which you wish to become licensed prior to applying to an educational program to make sure you meet the requirements. You can find information on the respective state dental board website.


If you are not sure or you have no preferences, it is wise to go through the route with the most freedom by taking the advanced training program for foreign dentists.


The above information is subject to change, please ensure to do further research before taking major decisions.

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06 December, 2020

Nice article, keep it up😊

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