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How to Become a Dentist in Canada (A Step by Step Guide)

ITDs from all over the world make it over to Canada through the immigration process and then are faced with some challenges to become fully accredited and licensed dentists.

We wanted to go a little deeper into this side of the process for those internationally trained dentists that are not opting for specialized programs during immigration, but just want a closer look at how to become a dentist in Canada using the equivalency process.

The good news is that how to become a dentist in Canada does not require you to receive another dental degree if you already have a quality education.

It does require you to prove your dentistry capabilities by taking a series of tests or exams that can be challenging if you are out of practice or have been specializing for several years.

We understand the amount of frustration with the process of being a dentist in Canada. As long as you can keep your paperwork well organized and make it through the exams, you will come out the other side into a highly favorable job market with many lucrative job options in Canada.

This is a gorgeous country to live and work in with friendly people, cosmopolitan centers, rich natural resources, and culturally diverse.

We will be following the steps of a general dentist through an accredited and non-accredited/equivalency process. We have a lot to cover, so let’s dig in!

Where Do We Begin?

To be a licensed dentist in Canada, you must have some form of formal education like a BDS/DDS/DMD degree from a recognized school or university program and hold an NDEB certificate.

The most straightforward pathway for an ITD to become a dentist in Canada is to go through the equivalency process. This is designed for those ITDs with a degree program or formal training that is not recognized as accredited in Canada.

Let’s break this down a bit more and go over some steps. Everything starts by applying and receiving approval for the NDEB.

Step 1 - NDEB Application & Approval

The NDEB is the National Dental Examining Board of Canada that issues exams to certify which dentists can practice in Canada. They are responsible for keeping a record of who is appropriately trained, educated, and skilled enough to perform dentistry legally.

To qualify for the NDEB application, you must fulfill one of three requirements:

♦   Graduate from a Canadian dental program - your school will automatically send your confirmation of graduation directly to the NDEB on your behalf.

♦   Graduate from an Accredited Dental Program in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland - it is up to you to send your original official transcripts to the NDEB in a sealed envelope. This must confirm the date you received your degree.

♦   Successfully Complete the Equivalency Process – your university/school will have to submit proof of graduation and academic records as you will pass through the multiple exams.

General dentists must hold a degree from an institute, college, or university to be considered part of an accredited program. That means your school is recognized by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC). Otherwise, you will be considered a non-accredited applicant and must pass the equivalency exams.

To open an NDEB account, click here and pay the fee. Then, send over the documents required and wait for the NDEB to review and approve your application.

Step 2 - Pass the AFK

Any foreign dentist seeking certification in Canada must pass the AFK unless they are a graduate of an accredited school.

You cannot register for the AFK exam until you have received approval from the NDEB. That can take around 22 weeks from when you submit your application to when you receive final approval.

We highly suggest you take advantage of this time period by studying for the AFK  so you can pass it on your first try and shorten the wait between steps.

The best way to manage how much money and time you will spend on the entire process of becoming a dentist in Canada has a lot to do with the pass rate of your exams.

We do not want to place added pressure on you as you move through this process, but the fewer times you have to take any of the exams, the faster you will become a qualified Canadian dentist.

The AFK is a 200 single answer multiple-choice questionnaire divided into two parts. This test is designed as the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge in the field of Dentistry. You can find a decent self-assessment here to give you an idea of what the AFK will cover.

You can take this exam electronically or via a booklet, but it must be at a proctored location. If you do not pass the AFK, you will not continue towards being a dentist in Canada.

To pass, you will need a test equated, a re-scaled score of 75 or higher. Start by logging into your NDEB profile and register by paying for the examination. You will be notified by email with instructions to schedule your exam with Prometric (a proctor).

Step 3 - Option 1: Pass the ACJ & NDECC

If you are not going back to college in Canada or another accredited program recognized by the NDEB, then stick to this path. Most ITDs will follow these steps. Don’t worry. We will get back to the school route later in this guide.

The ACJ

Upon completion of the AFK, it will be time for the ACJ. The Assessment of Clinical Judgment reviews your ability to formulate a diagnosis and make clinical decisions. It also covers knowledge in radiology and if you can adequately interpret that information.

The ACJ is a 5.5-hour exam with only a 30-minute break, so be prepared to go through a lot of material. There are 120-150 single answer and multi answer multiple-choice questions. Every section contains case-based diagnosis and clinical decision-making questions. This is only administered electronically at a proctored test center.

Like the AFK, you need a passing score of 75 or more. You can schedule your test by logging into your NDEB profile and registering for the exam after paying the fee.

The NDECC

This used to be known as the ACS but was changed in December of 2021 to the NDECC. This is the third exam in the equivalency process of becoming a dentist in Canada without an accredited dental degree. The test is known as the National Dental Examination of Clinical Competence.

During this exam, you are assessed based on clinical competence, which walks you through a series of scenarios requiring a judgment. Your skills and clinical capabilities will be tested based on patient-centered care, professionalism, communication, practice management, and more in that field.

The first NDECC exam will be held in June of 2022, so we do not have more details about registering, but we anticipate it to be similar to the other exams. Keep a close watch on your NDEB account to learn more.

Step 3 - Option 2: Pass ADAT and Complete University

For those ITDs that want to go back to college, you must first pass the ADAT. This takes the place of the ACJ and assesses if you are ready for an advanced dental education program.

The test is known as the Advanced Dental Admission Test and is used by all colleges in Canada to determine eligibility to their program.

The test takes about 4.5 hours to complete and is available at Pearson VUE centers all over Canada and the U.S. Most ITDs that take this test have had at least a couple of years of training in dentistry and are seeking post-graduate training or specialty practice. You can learn more about the registration process for the ADAT here.

Once you have a passing score for the ADAT, you can apply to a number of qualified Canadian institutions like University of Toronto and Mc Gill University. These schools accepts ADAT results instead of AFK.

Other schools that offers Dentistry programs that require AFK results prior to enrolling in their International Dentist Advanced Programs:

Keep in mind that the cost of these institutions can be pretty expensive. Depending on the program and fees, you should expect to pay anywhere from $50,000 to $360,000 CAD.

Step 4 - Pass Board Exams

Every ITD will have to pass the OSCE to receive final certification as a licensed dentist in Canada.

This is the final test you will be given and stands for the Objective Structured Clinical Examination. As its name suggests, this is a comprehensive exam to determine you can operate within or own your own clinic.

The OSCE is a booklet test consisting of two sessions on the same day. The first is a 50 multiple choice questionnaire that will include everything from case history to dental charts. Every question will have up to 15 answer options with one or more correct answers.

The second session is a long-form answer to one structured question that does an in-depth look at your ability to practice.

Like all the rest, you must have a 75 or higher to pass this exam. You can schedule your OSCE by viewing your NDEB account and paying the fee.

We want to make a special note here about this exam. In 2023, this will become the NDEB Virtual OSCE. This will combine the written examination and OSCE into one exam delivered electronically in a single day instead of two separate sessions.

You can take the OSCE up to three times, but we highly recommend working with a local preparation center specializing in helping ITDs get through the entire examination process with the NDEB equivalency program. We have a great article about the top Dental Training Institutes/ Centers that help ITDs.

Congratulations!

Once you have completed the OSCE, you have fulfilled all your obligations to be a dentist in Canada. All that is left is to send in your final application to the NDEB and them to issue you a license. That process can take a bit of time, but they are working hard to make it quick because dentists are so in demand right now.

You must communicate with the DRA (Dental Regulatory Authority) of the province where you want to practice. DRAs may require additional documentation or proof of specific skills.

Final Thoughts

There are some other nuances to this process, but we wanted to point out a few critical points. First, the cost of the equivalency is expensive. Every exam has its own fee:

♦   NDEB Profile & Paperwork - $900 CAD

♦   AFK - $800 CAD

♦   ACJ - $1,350 CAD

♦   NDECC - $9,000 CAD

♦   OSCE - $1,000 CAD

That is a total of $13,050 and does not include any preparatory help from dental study centers/institutes. If you wrap in those costs, you can expect to pay around $60,000 CAD for the entire process.

Of course, that is significantly less expensive than going back to college, but it is something you need to consider.

Second, you really should work with a dental clinic. There are significant differences in practicing dentistry in Canada compared to other countries, and you do not want to fail any of these exams as that can get expensive quickly.

Finally, speak to some ITDs who completed the equivalency program. We hear about so many questions on Facebook and Reddit that would fill a book to answer.

It really helps to join some of these groups to see if your question can be answered. Give us a follow on Facebook as we frequently post.

Also, Check Out

 ♦   5 Best Ways to Finance Your NDEB Canada Exams for Internationally Trained Dentists
 ♦   How to Prepare for TOEFL Test in Canada

 

Wrapping it Up

We hope this has been an informative resource for your research. It is a genuine pleasure to help ITDs come to Canada to open a dentistry practice. This is a wonderful country to set roots with many peer immigrants making the move because the job value and career outlook are so positive. Thank you for reading!

 

Karen Nunez was born in Valenzuela, Philippines. She received her Doctor of Dental Medicine degree from Centro Escolar University in Manila.

Karen currently is a practicing oral health care professional based in Alberta, Canada; and runs a Blog where she writes a slew of articles to empower internationally trained dentists to integrate into Canadian dentistry.

Read more of her blogs here.

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KIDS Nutrition POPULAR POSTS

How Natural or Herbal Toothpaste Will Change Your Life

Plaque- your mouth's worst enemy. It is one of the culprits of tooth decay, gingivitis, gum infection, and bad breath.

Mechanical aids like toothbrushes, mouthwashes, and floss are available to help you get rid of them. But when it comes to toothpaste, is there a natural product to aid you in cleaning your teeth? Fortunately, there is- Herbal or natural toothpaste.

Natural toothpaste can clean your teeth effectively and gently without the harsh ingredients that you can find in some conventional toothpaste. They contain plant extracts, anti-bacterial essential oils, and natural minerals.

If you are in the vibe of using natural, vegan, and non-GMO toothpaste, this article is for you.

Let us go over what they are, their benefits and potential drawbacks, and why you should consider using them in place of your regular tubes of toothpaste.

Ready for the big shift? Let's begin.

 Benefits of Using Herbal Toothpaste

1. Dye- Free 

 A comprehensive report by the Center for Science in the Public interest states that food dyes could be potentially linked to allergies, cancer, and ADHD. 

2. Gentler to your gums and teeth

Herbal toothpaste is free of abrasives that scratches the surfaces of your teeth that may lead to thinning out of your enamel or gum recession.

Some abrasives that you can see in the market today are the following:
Aluminum Oxide
Hydrated silica
Sodium Bicarbonate

3. Environment-friendly

Herbal ingredients are derived from plants and fruits, while many toothpaste formulas contain microbeads to remove stains and polish teeth. These tiny plastic particles pose an environmental concern since they are not biodegradable. And can find its way to the ocean and rivers after being washed down the drain.

When you use natural toothpaste, you help protect the environment by using earth-friendly ingredients.

4. Friendlier to your body

You do not have to worry about accidentally swallowing natural toothpaste when you brush as they contain no artificial ingredients and no SLS - a cleaning agent found in toothpaste that can often irritate gums and soft tissues.

Potential Drawback

No Fluoride content

The American Dental Association reminds us of brushing with fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that fights tooth decay and strengthens the outer layer of your teeth. Opting for a Fluoride-free toothpaste may increase your chances of having to deal with dental caries.

Your Takeaway

Achieving good dental health is easier than you think. Remember the dental hygiene instructions of your dental health professional- brush your teeth twice daily and floss once daily.

Discuss with your oral health care professional what is best for your dental health needs. (Conventional or natural toothpaste).  Both of your can brainstorm to help you achieve that dazzling and healthy smile!

 

We assembled a line of natural or herbal toothpaste that you can add up to your dental hygiene regimen.

BEST NATURAL OR HERBAL TOOTHPASTE

Dabur Herbal Healthcare Neem Fluoride-Free Natural Toothpaste, 5.43 Oz/154 gm (3 Pack)

Enjoy the mild and fresh taste of this natural toothpaste. Its Neem component is a fruit from the Mahogany Tree family which contains antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Auromere Ayurvedic Herbal Toothpaste, Fresh Mint - Vegan, Natural, Non-GMO, Fluoride Free, Gluten Free, with Neem & Peelu (4.16 oz), 2 Pack

This award-winning toothpaste is made from pure mint oils and 24 special herbs which include NEEM and PEELU for optimum oral hygiene. It is also concentrated that each tube lasts 3x longer than regular toothpaste.

Himalaya Herbal Healthcare Neem and Pomegranate Fluoride-Free Natural Toothpaste, SLS-Free, 5.29 Oz/150 gm (4 PACK)

The hero ingredients in this toothpaste are Neem and Pomegranate. Your mouth will love these two as they are effective against dental plaque and reduce the unfriendly bacteria in your mouth. Its formula gives an intense boost to your overall oral health by preventing bad breath and gum problems.Results? Your mouth feels clean and healthy!

Twice Classic Duo (2-Pack)

Each tube contains a blend of three powerful vitamins selected by experts to keep your mouth in good health. It has a great taste that you will surely love. Best of all, it works better than regular toothpaste.

Rael Himalayan Pink Salt Toothpaste - Natural, Vegan, Paraben-Free, Fresh Breath, Oral Care, Fresh Soothing Mint (4.23oz/120g)

Try this unique gel toothpaste formulated with Botanical extracts that helps strengthen enamel, provide full mouth detox and naturally protect your teeth from decay.

Auromere Licorice Ayurvedic Herbal Toothpaste With 24 Special Herbal Extracts for Optimum Care of Teeth and Gums, 4.16 oz (75 ml/117 g) (Pack of 2)

Love the taste of Licorice plus its antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Use it daily and you won't wake up with morning breath.

Choose from a List of Herbal Toothpaste Available. Find out more Here.

 


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