30 August 2021
4  min.

The path to dentistry in the USA is long, multi-staged, and complex! It differs a lot from careers in other fields of study, as well as from the systems of education in other countries. Today I would like to talk about the basics of this process by describing the main steps towards achieving the goal of becoming a professional dentist in the USA.

Step 1. Collecting information, identifying your path towards your goal of becoming a dentist.
Read and collect as much information as possible. Look at the American Student Dental Association and American Dental Association websites to get an idea about the path to a degree in dentistry, as well as some specifics on the procedure for international students. There are two main options: starting your career in the U.S. or getting a dentistry degree in your native country and then receiving advanced dental training for foreign dental graduates in the U.S. If you already have a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) degree, you could also obtain licensure to practice dentistry in the U.S. If you think the first option suits you best, go on to the next step described below.
Step 2. Getting an undergraduate degree 
There is no undergraduate degree in dentistry in the U.S. However, you can not apply to dental school right after graduation from a high school. Your first step towards your goal is entering an undergraduate program at a U.S. college or university, taking courses in such disciplines as mathematics, zoology, biology, chemistry, physics, and English, and getting a bachelor’s degree. Be aware that admission officers appreciate a liberal arts background in candidates’ education. They welcome those interested not only in natural sciences but also in sociology, humanity, and arts. Check the entrance requirements of the school to which you want to apply upon completion of undergraduate programs. You need to be sure your undergraduate program offers all courses you need to enter a dental school.
Step 3. Making a list of schools that accept international students, preparing and passing the Dental Admission Test (DAT).
There are only 68 Dental Schools https://www.ada.org/en/science-research/health-policy-institute/dental-statistics/education that offer the two degrees in dentistry: Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or the Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), and not all of them accept international students. The education is costly, varying from $50,000 to $70,000 for tuition only! Private dental schools tend to be more favorable towards international students in comparison with public ones, which usually give preference to state residents. Make a list of schools you want to apply to and thoroughly study each school’s website to learn about the application procedure, cost of study, and timeline. The admission requirements will range from school to school, but in general, they will include the following items:
Step 4. Attending a dental school, getting professional experience, obtaining a DDS or DDM.
Dental school programs last for four years and consist of two years of pre-clinical and two years of clinical programs. Pre-clinical instruction focuses on the biomedical and dental sciences. Clinical courses may include but are not limited to pedodontics, restorative dentistry, endodontics, dental radiology, oral surgery, removable prosthodontics, fixed prosthodontics, periodontics, and oral diagnosis. During the last two years, students participate in patient-centered activities held at hospitals under the supervision of licensed dentists. After completing the program, students become either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). The difference between DDS or DMD degrees is their names only, but not in the study programs leading to those degrees.
Step 5. Obtaining Licensure
DMD or DDS degree holders cannot start practicing in the U.S. without obtaining licensure in the state they are going to live and work. There is no universal licensure exam or universal licensure procedure suitable for all states. Each state sets its own licensure requirements. In most cases, the procedure includes passing the Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE) of the National Board Dental Exams (NBDE) and a practical examination administered by individual state licensing boards. Look at the American Student Dental Association to find information about regional dental licensing exams and state licensure highlights.
Graduate Programs
Many U.S. universities also offer graduate programs leading to a Master of Science (MS), a Master of Science of Dentistry (MSD), or Ph.D. These degrees require coursework, research in various aspects of advanced biological science, material science, issues related to oral health and disease, and a thesis. The programs are designed to provide advanced training in research and research methodology to students wishing to obtain graduate degrees, those currently enrolled in the D.M.D./ D.D.S. degrees as well as to persons who have previously completed professional programs and earned equivalents of the above-mentioned degrees in foreign countries. The student body is usually a diverse one and often includes post-graduate dentists, dental students, and science graduates. Start your journey to gain admission to U.S. colleges and universities with EducationUSA Russia – an official and reliable source of information on U.S. higher education.
Start your journey to US colleges and universities with EducationUSA Russia – the official and trusted source of information about US higher education.
Contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions on the topic discussed today or any other higher education opportunities in the U.S.
Start your journey to gain admission to U.S. colleges and universities with EducationUSA Russia — an official and reliable source of information on U.S. higher education.
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Contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions on the topic discussed today or any other higher education opportunities in the U.S.