Five important questions internationally-trained dentists (ITDs) should ask themselves on the path to licensure in Canada

Published February 8, 2023.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes 

In summary: 

  • Internationally-trained dentists need to be prepared for the costs and time commitment required to become a licensed dentist in Canada. 

  • International dental credentials are valued and recognized in different ways by Canadian assessment and regulatory bodies. 
  • Supports are available to manage your finances and effectively prepare for the qualifying exams required to complete the Canadian dentist licensing process. 

Internationally-trained dentists (ITDs) are in demand in almost every part of Canada. 

As the Canadian population ages, and with new federal government policies making dental care more accessible, career opportunities in dentistry and for dental professionals are expected to increase. 

Immigrants and refugees trained in dental care can take advantage of these opportunities but they need to be prepared with information about the Canadian dental licensing process and they need to ask the right questions.  

Dentist licensure in Canada can be expensive and complex, costing thousands of dollars and taking between two and four years to complete. Equipped with the right knowledge, the journey to getting licensed to practise as a dentist in your new country can be a smooth one. 

Read more about the Canadian dentist licensing process in our recent blog post.  

The Windmill Microlending blog connected with Toronto-based Dr. Abhijit Patil, BDS, MDS. He is the founder and CEO of International Dentists Canada (IDC), a consultancy dedicated specifically to guide and support ITDs who wish to study, practice and achieve dental career success in Canada. Dr. Patil shared with us his five key questions (and answers) he believes are critical to helping foreign-trained dentists navigate the Canadian dental licensing process. 

Dr. Abhijit Patil Headshot (International Dentists Canada - IDC)

Dr. Abhijit Patil, founder of International Dentists Canada, offers insights for internationally-trained dentists (ITDs) to successfully complete the dentist licensing process in their new country. 


Key Question #1: Is my international dental training recognized and valued in Canada? 

Dr. Patil says: In Canada, recognized international dental degrees fall into two categories: accredited and non-accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC). Accredited dental programs are those accredited by CDAC including all the programs offered by Canadian dental faculties and credentials from several other countries including the United States, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand.  

Graduates of these programs can register for the National Dental Examining Board (NDEB) certification process by completing the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).  

Dental graduates from non-accredited programs must go through the NDEB equivalency process or complete a bridging/degree program. The NDEB equivalency process consists of three examinations, Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK), Assessment of Clinical Judgement (ACJ) and the National Dental Examination on Clinical Competence (NDECC). After completion of these exams and assessments, candidates can apply for NDEB certification. 


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Key Question #2: How can I best position myself to become a licensed dentist in Canada? 

Dr. Patil says: If you are a graduate of a non-accredited dental program, you can choose one of two routes available to get licensed to practice dentistry in Canada. These include the NDEB equivalency process followed by NDEB certification or a degree completion/bridging program.  

The NDEB equivalency process is less time consuming compared to degree completion. Meanwhile, the NDEB equivalency process is open to candidates regardless of their residency status in Canada whereas only the candidates with Canadian permanent residency and citizenship can apply for degree completion programs.  

Notably, the cost involved in the NDEB equivalency process is significantly less than degree completion. The NDEB equivalency process can cost between $50,000-$60,000, provided you complete all the examinations in your first attempts. On the other hand, degree completion Program can cost you between $150,000-$200,000 depending on the university. Considering these factors, candidates should decide carefully which route is most suitable for them. They should assess their own clinical practice skills. If you bring extensive clinical practice experience from your home country, then the NDEB equivalency process can save you lot of time and money. 

To learn more about the National Dental Examining Board (NDEB) equivalency process and other steps required by ITDs to become a dentist in Canada, download Windmill’s Education Pathways for Skilled Newcomers here. 

Key Question #3: How do I prepare for the NDEB equivalency exams? 

Dr. Patil says: Preparing yourself for the NDEB equivalency process requires dedication and time commitment. The NDEB website features a number of digital resources which include exam sample questions, dental textbooks and journal articles which candidates can use to study and refer to. There are also several privately-run coaching institutes which offer dedicated exam coaching, mock tests and practice sessions.  

Key Question #4: How do I manage my finances while completing the NDEB equivalency process and what supports are available for ITDs? 

Dr. Patil says: The NDEB equivalency can be a challenging process, and it can also test your patience and perseverance. It can put a great deal of financial pressure on ITDs with extensive fees for creating an NDEB profile, completing registration for three examinations and coaching, etc. The good news is there are different kinds of supports available to you if you look in the right places.  

There is free coaching available from educational institutions, which is sponsored by various provincial governments across Canada. There are also charitable organizations like Windmill Microlending which offer affordable loans, up to $15,000, to help ITDs pay for the costs of the dental licensing process, with or without Canadian credit history. ITDs can use this money to buy necessary equipment or even pay for cost of living while you study. Windmill also offers career coaching, a mentorship program, financial literacy training and career advancement tools and resources. 

Key Question #5: What happens after I complete the NDEB equivalency process? 

Dr. Patil says: ITDs who successfully complete the NDEB equivalency process must complete certification examinations which will soon (as of March 2023) consist of a virtual OSCE. Candidates can make a maximum of three attempts to complete the NDEB certification examination. Once candidates complete NDEB certification process, they can register with the dental regulatory authority (DRA) in any province in Canada by fulfilling their requirements to obtain final licence to practice. 

Could an affordable loan help you pay for the costs of accreditation, training, certification or career development in Canada? Find out if you are eligible for a Windmill microloan of up to $15,000 by completing our two-minute loan eligibility quiz. No Canadian credit history required. 

Categorized in: Career Success and Planning, Accreditation and Licensing, A Newcomer's Journey,