The Influence of Dental Externships on Your Application Success

  • the importance of dental externships

Hey everyone! A lot of you may be bracing yourselves for the upcoming application cycle for 2019! If not, this is just the right time for you to start preparing and improving on anything that could help your profile stand out.

A lot of candidates ask us whether dental externships, observerships or preceptorships could increase their chances of selection and if they are important. Why is there so much hype about it? This article is for those of you who want to know more about dental externships in the US. We will also show you how they can help you strengthen your candidacy.

The externship program is offered to interested predoctoral dental students. It aims to provide an educational experience designed to acquaint a predoctoral dental student to a postdoctoral program. Externs observe and assist in the same environment as dental students and residents do. They get to understand the work processes of a department and the everyday demands of the profession.

a view of two dental chairs as a reminder of dental externships

How dental externships help you become a better candidate

Speaking from my personal experience, I was lucky to be a part of a dental externships program in the Department of General Practice Residency in a US Dental School for a month. Here is how this externship benefitted me:

Different approach

  • Dentistry in the USA is a lot more different than in your home country; take India for mine. Just to name a few, there are differences in tooth numbering systems, dental materials used, software used to store patient information, etc. Furthermore, there are so many fields related to dentistry in USA like Anaplastology and Speech Pathology, something I had no idea about. My externship was an eye-opening experience for me. It made me understand what I am getting into and what would be expected of me later.

Show your dedication

  • An externship would either reinforce or undermine your will to practice as a dentist in the US. It will give you clarity regarding why you wanted to practice as a dentist in the US. In my case, I was mesmerized by the technology used, the work ethics followed by the dedication of the staff towards the students. The externship strengthened my will to go through the whole process of applying. It gave me a clear vision of what was waiting for me beyond it.


  • I got to interact with the dental students (both native and international dentists like me), the faculty and the staff. I asked about their experiences, shadowed them during their work, attended lectures with them and just talked to them in general. It gave me the confidence to make friends with people from different cultures and work with them as a team. It’s a great way to improve your English-speaking skills as well!

Improve your dental skills

  • It’s a great opportunity to shadow the faculty and learn some valuable skills. The externship also provides the faculty with a chance to evaluate the qualities of the student who may be a potential applicant to their program. If you are successful in developing a rapport and establishing a good relationship with your faculty, you can request one of them to write you a recommendation letter for your application.


  • Last but not least, you’ll learn to be both responsible and independent. You’ll learn to navigate through the system and carve your niche.

female dentist talking about her experience from a dental externship

How to apply for dental externships?

An interested predoctoral dental student may apply for any of the dental externships. You need to contact the appropriate department of the dental school you are interested in applying for. Some universities offer an observership only if you are still an intern in your home country. Some offer it to international dentists as well. You can find both free and paid externships. If you have contacts from a specific dental school or a private dental clinic, then that could help you get a shadowing experience as well.

Dental externships play a vital role by providing students with an opportunity to enhance their clinical, interpersonal, and patient management skills in a more independent setting. Students develop a professional relationship with their externship preceptors who provide instruction, support, and guidance throughout their extramural experience. US dental schools heavily look for dental experience within the country. That gives them a better idea if you are a fit for the system. A shadowing experience would provide you with exposure to the U.S. dental clinical practices.

The influence of dental externships on your application success is undoubtedly a positive one. The longer you observe, and the variety of subjects you have externships in would make a stronger impression of you as a candidate. What area of dentistry would you want to do an externship in and why?  We’d love to know!


  1. mol October 3, 2019 at 7:05 am - Reply

    what are the different observership programs available for international dental students in the US. Can you please help and tell me.

  2. Mohammad Murtaza August 1, 2019 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    If I had a choice between an externship, a preceptorship and a shadowing experience, which one would be most fruitful in terms of strengthening my resume for application to advanced standing programs? And which one is almost always overlooked when programs go through your resume when you apply?

    • Christ Barcenas August 1, 2019 at 9:40 pm - Reply

      That is really a good question and a big one and unfortunately, we cannot just throw a recommendation right away without knowing more about your profile. We’d be happy to work with you and help you decide through our hourly consultation, if you would be interested.


  3. Abhi January 26, 2019 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Very well articulated. Even I learnt a few things!! Keep it up

    • Christ Barcenas January 27, 2019 at 8:58 pm - Reply

      Happy to hear that, keep posted for our new upcoming articles!

Leave a Reply

Get Our Free Course . . .

Getting into Advanced Standing Programs

A 10 Day Email Course that Will Give You the Insights You Need to Become a US Dental Student
Sign Up
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.