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Requirements for Foreign Dentists

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All foreign dentists, regardless of their professional backgrounds and experiences in their native countries, are required to study in an American university and pass the U.S. license exams in order to practice dentistry in the United States.

There are American universities that have special programs for foreign-trained dentists who want to work in the United States. These programs are typically designed to further their training and help them become eligible to take the state board exams.

Eligibility to Work in the United States

Other than U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green-card holders) who want to practice dentistry in the United States, foreigners intending to work in the country must be granted U.S. work visas. The H1B Visa Program is the primary U.S. work visa provided to qualified professionals and students from all over the world. This visa is granted to any foreigner in specialty occupations and is valid for up to six years.

To be qualified for this type of visa, a foreigner must typically have a bachelor's degree or higher degree (or foreign equivalent) or have a mix of further education and work experience with a total of at least 12 years. Specialty occupations include professionals in the health care and medical fields.

English Language Proficiency (TOEFL)

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam is required for all prospective students whose native language is not English. Passing score is at least 560 for the paper format or 87 for the Internet-based exam. The Internet-based TOEFL (IBT) must also meet the minimum section scores: 25 for the writing part, 24 for the speaking part, 21 for the reading part and 17 for the listening part. There are no waivers provided for those with scores lower than the stated minimums.

Attending an American University

Foreign dentists must enroll in a U. S. university for a course in dentistry to further their training and prepare them for the license examinations. Some universities have two separate tracks for foreign-trained dentists and traditional students. Others accommodate foreign-trained dentists in exactly the same academic program. There are also some programs that begin with classes geared specifically to foreign-trained dentists only. These programs usually require rigorous summer curricula. After a few semesters, they are fully integrated into the traditional student body.

For foreign-trained dentists intending to attend U.S. universities, they must submit: translated/evaluated official transcripts (original certified college or post-secondary transcripts and original certified professional education transcripts); official copies of diplomas and/or degrees from their foreign dental school programs; and official copies of their dental licenses or their equivalent.

U.S. schools also typically require the following: letters of recommendation, curriculum vitae or professional resume; and certification of finances.

Passing the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE)

The National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) is the United States’ national dental examination meant for students and professionals in the field of dentistry. Passing this is required to get licensed in the United States. For U.S. students, this is often required when applying for advanced postgraduate studies in any of the dental specialties, after completing a dental degree. For foreign-trained dentists, this test is required for them to get admission in one of the advanced standing or special programs for foreign-trained dentists in any U.S. dental school.