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11 March, 2024

Preparing for the INBDE as an International Student

The INBDE is an exam to obtain licensure to practice dentistry. In this article, we will guide international graduates on passing the INBDE.
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Internationally educated dentists often find it difficult to gather comprehensive information and preparation resources to pass the INBDE. This can be a daunting task for even the most prepared individual. My name is Dr. Varun Nischal, and I am currently an internationally trained dentist from India who has already passed the INBDE. I have written this article intended as a guide to assisting international candidates in acing the INBDE!

🤔 What is the INBDE?

The Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE) was developed by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE). It is intended for use by American state dental boards to make informed decisions on the practicing skills of entry-level dentists for licensure purposes. The INBDE has replaced the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Parts I and II. Part II will be discontinued entirely on December 31, 2022. INBDE results are reported as a Pass/Fail, similar to NBDE Parts I and II. Candidates must pass the exam within five attempts or the first five years after their first attempt, whichever comes first. After exhausting the five attempts or after five years, candidates can take the exam once every year. The exam results are not valid per se. Still, certain program directors of advanced standing and residency programs may want the candidates to repeat the examination after five years to assess their theoretical knowledge in an ever-changing realm of dentistry.

📖 Exam Content

The INBDE primarily tests a candidate on their foundational and clinical knowledge of dentistry to ensure an entry-level practitioner can practice general dentistry safely and independently. A complete breakdown of the clinical content and foundational knowledge areas can be found in the official INBDE Candidate Guide available on the website of the American Dental Association (ADA) (link provided below). Exam questions aim to test one’s basic understanding of dental topics and integration of clinical knowledge. It is expected to find patient boxes, dental charts, radiographs, oral lesion pictures, and dental models on the exam. There is no negative marking for any question wrongly answered. Unanswered questions carry zero marks.

📑 Exam Schedule

The table below, which is from the ADA website illustrates the INBDE Day 1 and Day 2 schedule:

🎯 Results Reporting

INBDE results are reported as a Pass/Fail. Those who score above 75 pass the exam. Candidates who receive a score of less than 75 are shown their scores and how they performed compared to the other candidates. According to the ADA, results typically become available three to four weeks after taking the exam, but many candidates in the past have received their results within two weeks. Results can be audited within thirty days of receiving them at an additional fee.

👀 Eligibility

To take the INBDE, a candidate must have graduated from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) approved dental program (in the US or Canada) or a non-CODA approved dental program (International dentists). International candidates who have not completed their dental degrees and mandatory internships (if applicable) in their home countries are not eligible to apply. Practicing and non-practicing dentists who have already graduated from dental schools in their home countries are eligible to apply. The application process is as follows:

  1. Register for a DENTPIN: It is a unique, eight-digit number that helps protect a candidate’s personal identifying information, just like a Social Security Number. One can visit the website of the American Dental Association (ADA) and register for the DENTPIN. The candidate’s information should match the details on their national ID (e.g., a passport) while registering for the DENTPIN to avoid later administrative complications.
  2. Get your dental school transcripts assessed by Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE): This US credential evaluation organization helps assess the dental degree equivalency of internationally educated dentists and prepares a report which must be sent to the ADA in order to be eligible to take the INBDE. Preferably, a course-by-course report should be ordered.
  3. Submit an application and wait for the ADA to send an eligibility email: The ADA will send an eligibility email after all document requirements have been met. Then the INBDE can be scheduled at a Prometric test center in the US or Canada. The INBDE can only be taken within a 6-month window after the ADA confirms a candidate’s eligibility. An additional extension can be sought by paying a fee. More details can be found in the recent INBDE Candidate Guide. The table below illustrates the cost associated with the INBDE.


Preparing for the INBDE can be pretty challenging for internationally educated dentists as the dental curriculum differs in North America. Nevertheless, with ample grit and determination, it is possible to overcome this challenge and ace the exam. Some common challenges faced by international dentists are:

  1. Overwhelming resources and information associated with the exam: North American dentistry can often seem complicated for dental professionals from other countries owing to cultural, regulatory, and academic differences. There is an overwhelming amount of information available on social media concerning this exam and plenty of resources to choose from, which can confuse and scare a prospective test-taker. The good news is that the INBDE is a very doable exam, and with the right mindset, it is not at all difficult to crack. INBDE Booster is an excellent resource to bank upon, and their entire team is dedicated to helping future dentists carve a niche for themselves in the dental field. Social media networks like Facebook and Reddit are other superb communities filled with multiple forums of helpful information.
  2. Language barrier: With most internationally educated dentists having English as a Second Language (ESL), understanding the dental core material and concepts can sometimes pose a challenge. Dental schools in the US also expect these dental professionals to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam as a mandatory component of the admissions process. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare for this exam and overcome the language barrier while improving communication skills. Free online YouTube resources can greatly help you get a good score and pass the TOEFL.
  3. Time Management: Internationally educated dentists aspiring to become dentists in the US come from all walks of life. Some are recent graduates, while others have ample work and research experience to their credit. The most apparent challenge they face is managing their time efficiently. Working full-time, maintaining a family, and studying for the INBDE all at once can be a difficult experience. Nevertheless, a disciplined routine can go a long way in preparing for this high-stakes dental exam. It is possible to maintain homogeneity in preparation and ace the exam on the first shot.

✍️ Preparation Strategies

  1. Follow a study schedule: It always helps to be disciplined and meticulously follow a study schedule. It prevents candidates from getting distracted from their goal and inspires the motivation to inch closer to the ultimate destination – a passing mark! INBDE Booster has a great eight-week study schedule that can be followed to channel preparation in the right direction. Some candidates might want to study extra for a few more months to gain confidence. It will certainly not hurt. Just make sure to avoid studying for more than 5-6 months, as it will cause you to burn out otherwise.
  2. Use the right study resources: With so many apps and online resources on the market, candidates often find it challenging to make the right study choice. Thankfully, narrowing down on resources combined with a focused approach will help you ace the INBDE. INBDEBooster has palpated the need for dental students. It has created an excellent online resource that consists of thousands of practice questions, study notes, flashcards, video solutions, and robust customer support. Additionally, you can refer to your dental school notes, recommended articles, and textbooks when finer details need to be clarified. Lastly, the American Dental Association (ADA) has provided sample questions for the INBDE on its website. They are a must-do to get familiar with the actual exam content.
  3. Read, Recite, and Repeat: Our short-term memory cannot accommodate bigger chunks of information for prolonged periods, but our long-term memory is a fantastic storehouse of information and can be actively recalled when needed. An effective way to study is to read the topics once and then actively recite them a few days apart until they stick. Repeat what you read a few days ago, and formulate your own questions if you can. ‘Spaced repetition,’ as many researchers call it, goes a long way in understanding theoretical concepts and remembering them for a long time.
  4. Stay positive and do not stress yourself out: It is natural to get stressed out during an exam, especially if it means the world to you. Based on the life experiences of people who have taken the INBDE in the past, getting too nervous or stressed out before the exam will only make the matter worse. Despite studying for a few months or even a year, one will never feel adequately prepared for this exam. The good news is that you just need to build upon your basics and focus on the most high-yield content in order to pass. Master the information you already have before delving deeper into new arenas. Try to attentively grasp practice question stems and eliminate the most obvious wrong answer choices first. Never shy away from making an educated guess; the first guess is often the correct answer. Trust your instinct and approach this exam confidently. It is just a matter of time before you emerge as a winner.

👉 Conclusion

Practicing dentistry in the US or Canada is a dream for many internationally educated dentists who want to further their knowledge and clinical skills in a high-quality and collaborative environment. The INBDE is the initial visa that is needed on their academic passports to practice dentistry in the US. With the right tools, it is possible to ace the INBDE. INBDEBooster has the necessary armamentarium to help you prepare for this exam. Be focused on your preparation, believe in yourself, take frequent breaks, and pursue your hobbies to relax. We are all in this together, and INBDE is just another brick in the wall that will reward you considerably in your future endeavors. Happy studying!

🔗 Important Links

  1. DENTPIN Registration
  2. INBDE Information
  3. American Dental Association (ADA)
  4. Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE)