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Roadmap to US Dental School for Foreign Trained Dentists

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How to become a dentist in the U.S. as a foreign? many high schoolers and undergrads see their family dentists as superheroes who went through a rough and heavy road that is hard to follow and comprehend, in this blog we’ll discuss how can you become a dentist, and if you are one now how can you match into different residency programs?

1. Dental school pathway for US graduates:

  • After finishing high school students should finish a four years undergrad program to obtain a bachelor’s degree in (biochemistry, neuroscience, or any other scientifical field).
  • And before applying to dental school students should also take the DAT (dental admission test) as it’s a required step for every applicant, students send all their documents to different dentistry schools and wait for their interview.
  • Generally speaking, dental school is also a four years program making the road to becoming a dentist between 8 to 9 years in total (4 undergrad years & 4 dental school years).
  • Students may also consider doing residency which would add 2 to 6 more years varies upon the specialty, making you a board-certified specialist.

2. Dental school pathways for international graduates:

For international graduates, there are many routes to consider but all of them require being a foreign dental school graduate, you can either:

1-Go directly into residency: Which has many disadvantages such as having a limited license to work in only certain states after finishing the program years, also some programs require you to be a US dental school graduate having (DDS or DMD), in addition to being highly competitive due to limited spots for both US and international graduates.

2-or you can go to dental school first which has two main routes which are:

A) Advanced standing route: This route is basically repeating the last two years of dental school in one of the 40 dental schools in the US that provides this route, and you graduate as a general dentist who did his dental school in the US dental schools, and if you want you can pursue doing a residency.

Where to apply for the advanced standing route?

  • You apply using CAPID, it’s a directory that contains 40 different dental schools that offer this program, at this directory you can find a summary of what each program is looking for in your application to make things easier for you.
  • The fees when applying for different dental schools range from (190$ – 400$) per application.
  • The cycle for advanced standing opens every March and it lasts from March till February.

But what are the advantages of this route?

  • It allows you to practice dentistry in all 50 states.
  • It makes you more familiar with the US system, and gives some tips and tricks to get into residency in the US.
  • And it also builds you a strong foundation as you graduate from this program with a DDS degree like any other US dental school graduate.

So, what are the disadvantages then?

  • Wasting some time by going back to dental school for two years.
  • Paying extra money, as dental school is very expensive you should consider that expenses may go up to 300K for those two years only.

B) Professional program for international dentists’ route.

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3.Students' loans and how to apply for them?

Applying for students’ loans also falls under the circumstance of being a green card holder or not; if you’re a green card holder you can apply for federal loans and if not, you can apply for private students’ loans.

  • Federal loans:

Applying for these loans is only limited to US citizens and green card holders, it has a low annual interest rate of 5% – 6% in comparison to private students’ loans.

  • Private Students’ loans:

The main issue with private students’ loans is that you need an American co-signer (a green card holder or a US citizen) to sign off on your loan application, in case something bad happens and you couldn’t pay your loan he is legally liable to pay the debt for you. Another issue is having a high annual interest rate up to (11.5% – 13%). However, it’s a very good investment in the long run as this is your future career and you can pay back your loan in 3-5 years later after graduating.

4. Applying for the dental Residency programs:

There’s no such thing as impossible, when you apply for residency you apply through a program called PASS, but as we mentioned earlier as an international dental school graduate you can directly apply for only limited residency programs, as mainly most of the programs request being a US dental school graduate (through one of the routes we’ve mentioned above) and even though, it’s highly competitive as you’re competing with the top students in the field for limited seats in limited programs.

There are about 20 different residency programs but not all of them are CODA-accredited (Commission on Dental Accreditation), and when applying for residency you should always apply for the ones that are CODA-accredited, as when you finish that program you become a Board-certified specialist which is a huge advantage in your career.  

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5.What are the dental Match application requirements?

The INBD exam:

The Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE), used to be two exams but now, it’s one exam as it’s the key to which you may pass and get into residency or continue with the advanced standing route.

It’s an exam that tests the main information you should have as a general dentist, it’s available at least twice each month but unfortunately, it’s only available in the U.S. which may be a huge setback as you need to obtain a VISA to take the exam.

High Tofel score:

Most of the schools suggest having more than 85, but technically speaking for your application to stand out you should aim for 105 and above out of 120.

ECE report:

It’s an online agency in which you send in your transcript and diploma, and they give you an equivalent to your studies in the U.S. GPA system. It’s a mandatory step for applying for both INBDE and residency applications. 

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6.What is the importance of having US dental experience?

Having US dental experience is something that would make your application stand out! But it’s not a mandatory step to get into residency.

7. Does research play any role in the Match process?

Research is another step that would also highlight your application among others, having many published research papers is a huge advantage, but even if your paper isn’t published yet you shouldn’t be discouraged to mention it in your application, having the will and the ability to do research is the main strength that programs would focus on.

8. Why going to the US?

If you want to be the best you should always look for the best, most of the programs in the US are tier one programs and they offer the best dental training for dental students around the world, as when you finish your training you become a Board-certified dentist which allows you to work in any country without doing any equivalency tests or training.


Navigating the path to becoming a dentist in the U.S. involves a series of strategic decisions and steps. Each pathway has its unique challenges and benefits, and choosing the right one depends on your personal circumstances and career goals.

Don’t navigate this journey alone. Check out our dental advising service or contact us directly to learn more about how we can help you achieve your dreams of practicing dentistry in the United States and becoming a top-tier, board-certified dentist. Let us be part of your success story.

Wish you best of luck 🍀!

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