We get a lot of questions about pathways for foreign-trained dentists to pursue careers in the United States. This article is for those of you who are curious or interested in pursuing the best dental residency program for international students.
Dental residency program vs. D.D.S
Let us start with discovering how a dental residency program is different from D.D.S. A dental residency provides education and training in a particular subject, just like a post-graduation program would in your home country. Also, admissions to a residency program are facilitated via the National Matching Service which makes it more competitive.
D.D.S. is an advanced standing program which does not focus on a specialization but rather all subjects taught in a dental school. It is basically a bridge course making you equivalent to any US-trained dentist in which you repeat two years of dental training to get licensure to practice in the United States.
The future need for dentists in the United States is strong because of the aging U.S. population. This will increase the need for dentists in two ways: first, many older dentists will retire, and the larger cohort of older patients will need oral health care services. Secondly, the U.S. population is becoming increasingly diverse and individuals with limited English proficiency often have poorer health, creating the need for health care practitioners with multilingual skills. This provides a great opportunity to make a nice living in the US.
There are six types of residency programs that participate in the Postdoctoral Dental Matching Program administered by National Matching Services, Inc. for selecting students. These are as follows:
- Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD)
- Dental Anesthesiology
- General Practice Residency
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
- Pediatric Dentistry
According to the program’s website, for the matriculating year of 2014, the number of spots for “dental residency program for international students” available through the matching program varied from a low of twenty-seven for dental anesthesiology to a high of 619 for GPR programs (https://natmatch.com/dentres/statistics.html). AEGD programs had the highest proportion of foreign-trained dentists (18.9 percent) followed by orthodontics (16.1 percent).
Advantages of a dental residency program
- Continuation of a bachelor’s program acquired in your home country.
- Direct specialization of a subject, hence saving time.
- More financially viable than D.D.S.
Disadvantages of a dental residency program
- License to practice dentistry is limited to only a few states
- It is difficult to get accustomed to the US ways of practicing dentistry since you weren’t educated here
- There is no salary for internationally-trained residents in most universities.
Foreign-trained dentists have many career options available. What you ultimately choose depends on how much input you are willing to put in the process and how much freedom you want to practice in the US.
What factors would influence the decision of choosing a dental residency program for international students?
Availability of programs
There are 9 CODA approved specialties which accept foreign dentists. Specialty programs are usually two to three years in duration, maximum being six years for oral surgery.
Studying at a dental school is a huge investment which requires taking loans and having a sponsor in the U.S. Hence, do a thorough research about both the tuition and living expenses before applying. Explore the options for scholarships available as well.
Location of the School
It is advisable to choose a dental school which is nearby to your guardian’s home. That way you will be saving on the travel expenses and time in case of frequent visits. You can also consider the type of community in that area and the climate of that region since not everyone can survive the cold weather.
Curriculum and Requirements
Find out the subjects you will be studying, and the type of marking system used. Student to faculty ratio is important if you need more individual attention. Research about the type of clinics you will be working in, the community of patients you will be treating, and above all the amount of laboratory work you will be doing since these factors are pertinent and will help you in making a better decision.
Campus and Student Life
You will be spending nearly 3 years in dental school or more so you want your student life to be productive as well as fun. Most dental schools organize many co-curricular activities and have a variety of clubs and organizations to participate in. Sports and other activities will help you to be disciplined and de-stress from your hectic work schedule.
Choosing the right dental residency program for international students is a major step towards achieving your goal of living and practicing in the US. Therefore, make sure you research thoroughly before applying to a dental school. Your experience as a dental student or resident will shape up your life. Talk directly to students and teachers of the school you want to attend and have a round of the school if possible.
Lastly, what other factors do you consider while choosing a program? Let us know!