How to Become a Dentist in Canada – An Easy and Simple Guide for ITDs

By Karen Nunez

For international students and ITDs, how to become a dentist in Canada can be a lengthy and costly. With so many steps involved, it’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. We’re here to help!

This guide will cover how to become certified by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB) and start practising as a Canadian dentist. 

The route to NDEB certification will depend on a few factors:

– Where you received your dental education

– Whether you want to be a licensed general dentist, specialist, or both

If you need more personalised help, we recommend contacting an immigration consultant for help.

Here’s how to become a dentist in Canada for Internationally Trained Dentists.

How To Become a Dentist in Canada

IDTs who want to become a licensed general dentist and graduated from a non-accredited general dentistry program will need to follow the steps below to become a dentist in Canada.

Step 1: NDEB Equivalency Process

The NDEB Equivalency Process can be a long, tedious and costly for ITDs. First, you must apply and be approved before you can begin taking exams.

Let’s take a look at the NDEB Equivalency Process step by step.

  1. Create an NDEB Login

The first step is to create an NDEB profile. Your online profile will allow you to submit all necessary documents and start the Equivalency Process.

To create your profile, you will need:

-A passport-style photograph in JPG or PNG format

-A valid credit card

Of course, you will also need access to a laptop or desktop computer.

When filling out the form to create your profile, the NDEB will ask you several questions, including your:

1. Graduation date

2. Graduation school

3. Name and address

4. Unit side (left or right-handed)

If your school isn’t listed in the dropdown menu, you will need to contact NDEB to find out your next steps.

  1. Fill Out and Submit All Required Documents

Once you have created your profile, you can begin submitting all of the required documents and the Confirmation of Degree Completion Form. Don’t worry, the NDEB provides detailed instructions on how to submit all of your documents.

The NDEB also provides a detailed list of the documents you need, what they are and their acceptable forms.

Additionally, you will need to sign, date and submit the Equivalency Process Required Documents Form. The form is just to verify that you:

-Acknowledge and understand the documents you need to submit

– Authorise the release of your academic record information to the NDEB

Basically, the Board is looking for documents that verify:

Your Credentials

» Confirmation of Degree form, which you will send to the university from which you graduated. Your university will fill out part of the form, and send the completed document back to the NDEB office.

» Official academic record with the original university stamp and the university official’s signature. If you attended multiple universities, you must send your official academic record from each one.

» Original final dental degree that was awarded on the date of your graduation in its original language. Please note that provisional degrees, letters of completion, certificates and graduation statements are not acceptable.

» Translation of academic record (if applicable). If your academic record was recorded in a language other than English or French, you must provide a verbatim translation by a certified translator.

» Internship completion certificate in the original language it was issued. This document is only required if your dental program required an internship to obtain your final degree. Also, if your academic record shows clinical work, then an internship completion certificate is not required.

Your Identity

» Government issued photo ID, such as a foreign passport, Canadian driver’s license or Canadian passport.

» Name change documentation (if applicable). Documentation will also be required if your legal name is different from any names that appear on your documents. A legal name change document, marriage certificate or sworn affidavit will suffice. The NDEB provides detailed information on acceptable documents for name changes.

Once your documents have been submitted, they will go through the verification process. Credential verification is a multi-step process that can take some time, so be patient. If there’s an issue with any of the documents, the NDEB will contact you and provide you with information on how to fix the problem.

You can also view the status of your documents through your online profile.

When all of your documents have been accepted and approved, you can finally register for the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK) exam.

  1. Take the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK)

The AFK is the first exam in the Equivalency Process. You will need to get a passing score (75) before taking any other exams in the Equivalency Process.

Here’s what you need to know:

⇒ The AFK will test your knowledge of applied clinical science and biomedical science.

⇒ The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions.

⇒ The AFK is broken into two parts. Each part lasts two hours.

⇒ There are two exam formats: electronic (at Prometric testing sites), and booklet format (at select testing sites).

To take the AFK, you must:

⇒ Register, and pay the fees for the exam. The costs for this exam are $800.If you’re taking a paper exam, no other steps are required.

⇒ For electronic exams, you will need to schedule your exam through the Prometric website.

The NDEB provides detailed information about what you can expect when taking the AFK, including the check-in process and question formats. You can view their booklet in PDF format here.

You can also take an online self-assessment to see if you’re ready for the AFK exam.

After the AFK exam, you have two routes you can take:

⇒ Take the ACJ and ACS/NDECC exams, OR

⇒ Complete a Qualifying and Degree Completion Program

Option 1: ACJ and ACS/NDECC Exams

  1. Take the Assessment of Clinical Judgment (ACJ)

The purpose of the ACJ exam is to gauge your ability to make a diagnosis and clinical decisions. It will also focus on oral radiology and your ability to make radiographic interpretations and diagnoses.

Here’s what you need to know:

⇒ The ACJ is an intense exam that lasts 5 hours with a 30-minute break.

⇒ The test consists of 120-150 multiple-choice questions.

⇒ Each section will have questions related to case-based diagnosis, clinical decision-making and treatment planning.

Paper exams are not available for the ACJ. You will need to:

⇒ Register for the exam and pay the fee through your NDEB profile. The fee for this exam is $1,350.

⇒ Schedule your seat time with Prometric.

  1. Take the Assessment of Clinical Skills (ACS)/NDECC™

The ASC (now known as the NDECC™ or National Dental Examination of Clinical Competence) will test your clinical skills on simulated patients.

Here’s what you need to know:

⇒ The ACS/NDECC spans two days.

⇒ You will be asked to perform 12 dental procedures on manikins in a clinical environment.

⇒ The fee for the exam is $9,000.

Under previous rules, you were only permitted to take the ACS a maximum of three times. Starting in 2022, examiness can take the NDECC™ as many times as they need within a five-year period.

The NDEB has created a helpful video that explains (in great detail) what to expect during the ACS.

Option 2: Qualifying and Degree Completion Programs

The AFK is required, but you can choose Qualifying and Degree Completion Programs as an alternative to the ACJ and ACS exams.

These are known as bridging programs, and they help internationally trained dentists  become familiar with dentistry in Canada and the country’s dental practices.

Bridging programs typically span 5-6 months. Once completed, students can enroll in the second or third year of a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) program. Completing the DDS program will take 2-3 years.

Not every university offers a bridging program, and those that do may have different entry requirements. It’s important to contact an institution first to determine whether they offer this program and their requirements to entry.

Once completed, you will be eligible for the NDEB Certification Process. You can view a list of programs here.

Step 2: The NDEB Certification Process

You’re halfway there! Once you have gone through the Equivalency Process, you can then go through the Certification Process to become licensed and start practising.

There are three steps in the Certification Process:

  1. Take the NDEB written exam
  2. Take the OSCE exam
  3. Obtain your certificate and license
Certification Process Exam Fees

Before we get into details about each step, let’s talk about fees. Here’s what you’ll need to pay:

⇒ NDEB written exam: $1,000 ($1,100 if outside North America)

⇒ OSCE exam: $1,000 ($1,100 if outside North America)

⇒ Application fee: $450

Once you have paid the fees and passed the exams, you will be issued an NDEB certificate.

  1. Take the NDEB Written Exam

The NDEB exam will test your knowledge of applied clinical science and basic science.

Here’s what you need to know:

⇒ The exam consists of 300 multiple-choice questions.

⇒ The testing period spans two 150-minute sessions. One session is administered in the morning, and the other in the afternoon.

You can take the exam up to three times. It’s worth the time and effort to focus on NDEB exam preparation and ensure that you’re ready to take the exam.

  1. Take the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)

The OSCE is similar to the ASJ. It will assess different aspects of clinical judgment, including:

⇒ Making a diagnosis

⇒ Treatment planning and methods

⇒ Prognosis

⇒ Clinical decision making

Here’s what you need to know:

⇒ The exam will be administered in two parts, both on the same day.

⇒ The OSCE will consist of 50 multiple-choice questions and one constructed response.

⇒ Each question will have up to 15 answers, and one or more may be correct.

⇒ You will be askedto review case information to answer questions, such as case history, photographs, dental charts and radiographs.

The NDEB provides a PDF with detailed information on preparing for the exam and what to expect on your exam day.

  1. Obtain Your Certificate and License

Once you have passed the written exam and the OSCE, you will be able to obtain your NDEB certificate.

If you chose the Qualifying and Degree Completion Programs route, you must also provide proof of graduation. However, if you went through the Equivalency Process, proof of graduation won’t be necessary.

Once you’re certified, you can contact the Dental Regulatory Authorities (DRA) about licensing.

2023 Changes to the Certification Process

NDEB Canada will be changing the Certification Process starting in 2023 with the launch of the NDEB Virtual OSCE. The new exam will combine the written exam and the OSCE into one exam that will be administered electronically in one day.

Costs and Considerations for ITDs

The road to becoming a dentist in Canada is a long and difficult one for ITDs. However, if it’s your dream to live and work in Canada practising dentistry, then it will be worth every penny and minute spent on exams, studying and preparation.

Still, it’s important to consider the less obvious costs of becoming a licensed dentist in Canada. In addition to exam fees, you must also consider:

⇒ Cost of living: Don’t forget that you will need to cover the costs of living in Canada. This will likely mean that you will need to work part-time or full-time while saving for and preparing for your exams.

⇒ Time: The Equivalency Process and Certification Process will take time. You may need time off of work or to go part-time in order to have the time for preparation, study and self-assessments.

The time commitment is just as concerning as the cost of living and exam fees. Many ITDs ask, “How long does it take to become a dentist in Canada?” Unfortunately, it’s difficult to provide an answer simply because every student is different.

It can take 18 weeks just to verify your documents to create an NDEB profile. The time it takes to go through exams will largely depend on whether or not you pass on the first try. Some exams are only given twice per year, so the entire process from start to finish can take years.

Simply put, to become a dentist in Canada as an ITD, you must be committed and prepared to invest the time and money into the process. However, it’s well worth the effort to obtain your certification and license. 

Stay tuned for more helpful and informative articles about ITDs!

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