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11 March, 2024

After Passing the INBDE as an International Student

The INBDE is a standardized exam to obtain licensure and practice dentistry in the US. In this article, we will discuss the steps international students take once they have completed the exam.
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This article intends to guide international graduates to their next available options after having passed the INBDE.

👏  Congratulations!

Pat yourself on the back for accomplishing this fantastic milestone. Your relentless efforts and hard work have paid off well. You are one step closer to achieving your dream of becoming a dentist in the US. You will find the points listed in this article immensely helpful in navigating your path to dentistry in the US.

🎯 Decide on your next goal 

Do you want to practice as a general dentist or further hone your clinical skills and don the whitecoat of a specialized dentist? Do you feel the need to build up upon your amateur profile by completing a preceptorship or a master’s program? Whatever your desire is, you must decide early on in your journey toward propelling your ambitions in the right direction. For international graduates aiming to become general dentists (DDS/DMD), Advanced Standing Programs (also known as International Dentist Programs) is the answer. For international graduates aspiring to become dental specialists (MSc/MS) directly, Residency Programs is the answer. Both routes have different admission requirements, application processes, and preparation strategies.

Practicing in the US as a General Dentist: For candidates who wish to practice as a general dentist in the US, ADEA CAAPID is the go-to application portal. The application cycle starts every year in March and continues till February of the following year. Candidates are advised to apply early, increasing their chances of being considered for an interview.

Practicing in the US as a Specialist Dentist: For candidates wishing to practice as a dental specialist in the US without having to pursue a DDS/DMD degree, the ADEA PASS is the channel to consider. The application cycle starts in May every year and lasts till February of the following year. Again, candidates are advised to apply early as the specialty programs are highly competitive with limited spots, and the best applicants are selected on a rolling basis. The specialty program is offered in various dental disciplines like endodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, and oral and maxillofacial surgery, to name a few, and culminates in an MSc/MS/PhD degree.

Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) Program: It is an intensive postgraduate training program that provides rigorous hands-on clinical training, emphasizing treatment planning, comprehensive dentistry, and patient management. The program is 12 – 24 months in duration, depending on the chosen school. ADEA PASS is the application portal for this program. The cycle opens in May every year and lasts till February of the following year. This program is an excellent option for international dental graduates wanting to hone their clinical skills in dentistry and polish their resumes for a DDS/DMD or specialty training in dentistry.

General Practice Residency (GPR): This is another intensive postgraduate program that primarily consists of hospital rotations and managing medically compromised and special-needs patients while significantly increasing the knowledge of practicing as a general dentist. The program is usually 12 – 24 months in duration. Strong preference is given to candidates with a DDS/DMD from the US/Canada. Nevertheless, it does not hurt to apply to the program if the international graduates feel they have a solid academic profile and clinical experience. One has to apply through the ADEA PASS as early as May, when the application cycle opens.

Master’s Programs and Preceptorships: There is a considerable amount of confusion among international dental graduates to consider a Master’s degree or a preceptorship as a stepping stone toward honing their academic profile. While most people consider enrolling in a Master of Public Health (MPH) or Master of Health Administration (MHA) program in the US, many candidates aim to complete their preceptorships in a US dental school. Preceptorships familiarize the candidates with predoctoral clinical and didactic education in dentistry. Although Master’s programs and preceptorships are a great way of boosting one’s candidacy while applying to various dental schools for admission, they do not guarantee acceptance. Furthermore, these programs come at a price tag, and international candidates should weigh all their options carefully before taking this giant leap of faith.

💪 Gathering documents and creating a strong application package

Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE) Report: As you have already passed your INBDE, it means you have your ECE evaluation report on hand. Make sure it is a course-by-course report reflecting your dental degree equivalency in the US and your GPA. Prepare to get it forwarded to CAAPID, PASS, or the dental school of your choice (if you are applying for a Master’s program or preceptorship) by visiting your online ECE account and paying the required fee.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Scores: TOEFL scores are favored by the admission committees as a prerequisite to admitting international dental graduates in their advanced standing or residency programs. The Master’s programs and preceptorships also ask for good TOEFL scores from the prospective candidates. A total score above 100 is usually considered competitive, while scores above 110 are considered ultra-competitive and greatly enhance an applicant’s overall profile. Free resources are available on YouTube to acclimatize you to the exam content. Official courses are available from the TOEFL test-makers: ETS. If you feel your scores are not up to the mark on your first attempt, do not shy away from retaking the exam. Just be sure not to miss the application deadlines for the dental programs.

Advanced Dental Admission Test (ADAT) Scores: This is a relatively new exam that was first administered in 2016. This exam aims to test the candidates on their deeper grip on the basic, clinical, and statistical concepts of dentistry and separate the cream of the crop from the average candidate pool. ADAT is a score-based exam ranging from 200 – 800. There are three sections that are tested: Biomedical Sciences (80 test items), Clinical Sciences (80 test items), and Dental Research, Interpretation, and Evidence Based-Dentistry (40 test items). Scores above 650 are generally considered competitive. While advanced standing programs are not always looking for ADAT scores, residency programs in the US, especially endodontics, orthodontics, and pediatric dentistry, specifically look for candidates with exceptional ADAT scores. More information about this exam can be found in the ADAT 2022 Candidate Guide on the American Dental Association’s website.

Letters of Recommendation: Every single dental program in the US asks for at least three letters of recommendation from an international candidate’s dental faculty and professional contacts from back home. At least one letter has to come directly from the dean of the dental school the candidate studied in. Other letters can come from the dental professionals who have supervised the candidate and know them well. Letters of recommendation from US dental professionals matter greatly and add weight to the candidate’s overall profile. Request your recommenders to write the letters early and ensure they reach the centralized application portals and the US dental schools well in time, electronically.

Personal Statement: Unfortunately, this indispensable component of the dental application package has never received full attention, and international graduates often lay less emphasis on their personal statements. A well-written personal statement can be a make-or-break deal for you! Admissions committees love to see you come through authentically and truthfully in your personal statement. This is their only chance to hear your side of the story: who you are as a person; are you passionate about dentistry; can you stand the test of time and survive in a rigorous academic climate; what can you contribute to your class, the community, and the profession? There are numerous resources and free sample personal statements available online. Just be cautious not to copy anyone else’s life story word by word. It is a serious offense (plagiarism) and reflects poorly on your integrity and character. You should give yourself at least 2-3 months to develop the final version of your personal statement and get it reviewed and proofread by as many people as possible. It could be your best friend, employer, the dentist you shadowed, or even a community college teacher who is expected to give you honest feedback. The grammar should be perfect, and the word limit should not be exceeded (usually 5200 characters). INBDEBooster has specialized admission services that you can avail of and structure a meticulous personal statement unique to your life story.

Community Service: North American dental schools value community service a lot. Helping others selflessly is also an essential skill that clinicians must master to win their patients’ trust and respect and emerge as leaders in their communities. Having at least 100 hours of community service/volunteering in the North American environment (US/Canada) is highly recommended. The members of the admissions committees give high preference to international graduates with exceptional community service, which highlights their compassion and willingness to help others.

US Dental Work Experience: International dental graduates can work as dental assistants/dental hygienists/dental technicians in the US/Canada and highlight these skills on their curriculum vitae (CV). Working in these positions can help you learn how dentistry is practiced in North America and hone your manual dexterity, which will be put to a full test in your dental school. You will also make some money to pay your bills and offset your living expenses. The admissions committees highly appreciate these experiences.

Clinical Experience: Of course, you cannot work as a dentist in the US with your international dental license, but you can always strive to garner as much clinical experience as you can back in your home country. You can work as a general dentist in your home country and list all your clinical experiences on your CV. Schools like to see what you were doing as a dentist back in your home country. Although extensive clinical experience in general dentistry and specialized dentistry (a Master’s degree in dentistry) is highly desirable, candidates who are recent graduates should not worry at all. The schools welcome a well-rounded overall profile. If you lack certain aspects of your application, try to outweigh them with your best achievements possible. Refrain from not applying to a dental school just because you think you have nothing significant on you.

Continuing Dental Education Courses: If you have previously taken such courses, list only the most significant ones on your CV, preferably having three or more credit hours. Keeping yourself up to date in dentistry is a good vibe you send to dental schools, and they like to see it in their incoming class of international students.

Research/Publications/Presentations/Teaching Experience: Although not necessary, these achievements add a feather to your cap and make you a competitive applicant in the candidate pool. List your most important and relevant research, publications, presentations, and teaching experiences on your CV. Times have changed, and so has dentistry. Every dental school in the US prides itself on its research and knowledge sharing; you would definitely not want to miss out on that!

Secondary application and school-specific questions: Secondary applications are equally important as the main application. Dental schools may ask you to answer specific questions concerning their program and why you are interested in them. This is the time to shine and tell them why you love their program so much and what you can bring to the table to make the entire schooling experience seem joyous, less stressful, and more memorable. INBDEBooster has a dedicated team of experts ready to go the extra mile and help you create an exceptional secondary application.

✌️ After applying

Prepare for bench tests: Bench tests constitute an essential part of the admissions process. The schools like to test you on your psychomotor, analytical, and hand skills to assess your fitness for their rigorous school curriculum and as a future dental professional. Prepare in advance for your bench test exams. The skills usually comprise tooth preparations for porcelain fused to metal and all-ceramic crowns, Class II amalgam preparation and restoration, and composite restorations, among other things. There are resources available online and in-person that could help you prepare for the bench tests. Reach out to the people who have already cleared these exams or your friends in the same boat as you.

Improve your interviewing skills: Interviews are the last step in your admission journey toward getting accepted into your dream school. They can initially seem intimidating, but with focused preparation and ample practice, you can ace them. Family, friends, and professional colleagues can help you prepare for your interview. Take as many mock interviews as time permits before your final interview and act on the critical feedback you receive from your interviewer(s). INBDEBooster offers tailored admission services, including interview preparation. You can try them out and increase your chances of being accepted at a dental school.

Plan well in advance for your in-person trips to the US if not already there: Traveling for bench tests and interviews can be a mammoth experience for people not already based in the US. If you are expecting an interview invite from a US dental school, get ready ahead of time with your visa, traveling, and accommodation. Some schools conducted virtual bench tests and interviews during the COVID-19 pandemic, but most schools have now reverted to their original protocols. Check with the school you intend to interview at regarding their requirements.

👉 Useful Tips

  1. Attend information sessions the schools offer to learn more about them. Reach out to the programs to ask questions, or connect with the current students.
  2. Apply as early in the application cycle as you possibly can. Do not wait until the last moment.
  3. If necessary, retake the TOEFL to increase your score.
  4. Ensure that your supplemental personal statement includes why you are applying to a particular school. It should also include explanations regarding low GPA, limited dental experience, multiple INBDE attempts, or gap years.
  5. Practice interviewing. Record yourself answering questions about your dental education, clinical experience, advanced degrees (if applicable), and the most significant challenges you had to overcome en route to your dental journey.
  6. Expand your dental work experience or education as much as possible.
  7. Apply to all the dental schools you feel are a good fit for you. You and the school have to be a mutual fit for each other. This increases your chances of being accepted.
  8. Stay positive and confident throughout the cycle and put your best foot forward. Do not lose hope if you are not selected in one cycle. Persist in your efforts and persevere till the end. The success will be yours to celebrate. Good luck!

🔗  Important Links

  1. ADEA CAAPID
  2. ADEA PASS
  3. ADEA GoDental
  4. ADAT
  5. TOEFL
  6. ECE Evaluation