How to become a dentist in Canada: Four ways to help internationally-trained dentists (ITDs) through the licensing process

Published August 2, 2022.

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

In summary:
  • The dentist licensing process in Canada can be time consuming and costly for internationally-trained dentists (ITDs) but the rewards of returning to your profession are significant.
  • There are growing career opportunities for ITDs across the country as the demand for dentists is projected to increase.
  • ITDs who successfully complete the National Dental Examining Board (NDEB) equivalency process do so by managing stress, having a strong financial plan and preparing sufficiently for qualifying exams.

Canada needs dentists.

That’s what the federal government projects for the dentistry profession in the years ahead.

Labour and staffing shortages, as well as a rapidly-retiring workforce, mean significant career advancement opportunities for internationally-trained dentists (ITDs) in Canada. Add to this, the country’s population is getting older, which will lead to an increased need for dental care. According to Windmill Microlending’s Trending Jobs Report, growing job opportunities in dentistry won’t be limited to one part of the country and are projected for most Canadian provinces and territories.

Dentistry is a regulated profession in Canada where skilled immigrants and refugees make up almost 40 per cent of those working in the field. However, completing the dentist licensing process can be complex, time-consuming and costly. It can take between 2-4 years and cost tens of thousands of dollars.

To bring clarity to this complex, expensive process, we reached out to Dr. Luca Salvador, founder and President of the Internationally Trained Dentists Association of Canada (ITDAOC). Salvador, himself an ITD, launched the organization in 2021 in recognition of the growing need for ITD advocacy. In particular, he was hoping to help ITDs save money, manage the stress associated with dentist training, qualifying exams and the licensure process, as well as, support their professional success in Canada. He also wants the organization to help ensure ITDs in Canada can find reliable information to empower them and lobby on their behalf to regulators and policymakers.

Luca Salvador - Web ITDAOC

Dr. Luca Salvador is the President of the Internationally Trained Dentists Association of Canada and says the NDEB equivalency process can make it challenging for ITDs to reach their dentistry career advancement goals in Canada.

Paths to dental licensing in Canada

Salvador tells us that as an ITD you have two paths to obtain your licence to practice dentistry in Canada. The National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB) is the accrediting body responsible for paths to licensure across the country. One path for ITDs is a qualifying and degree completion program. This can be a long and expensive process and spots are limited.

The alternative path is the NDEB Equivalency Process. The process consists of three exams:

Once you pass the exams, you are considered equivalent to a Canadian graduate and you can move on to the NDEB Certification Process. The NDEB Certification Process consists of two exams:

  • The Written Examination and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). NOTE: In 2023, the Virtual OSCE replaces the two certification exams. Once the certification process is completed, you can apply to a provincial regulatory authority to obtain your licence to work as a dentist in that province. Once that process is completed, you are officially licensed to practice dentistry in Canada.

The equivalency process can be difficult, says Salvador, but it is achievable. He suggests four ways to succeed in the NDEB equivalency process.

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

No. 1: Manage your stress

The NDEB equivalency process can be stressful. Developing stress management strategies is essential. This could include physical exercise, breathing exercises and meditation. Do your research and figure out what works best for you. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve studied, if you panic the day of a qualifying exam, you won’t be able to perform at your best. Consider visualization exercises to position yourself for a successful outcome.

LISTEN: Dr. Salvador expands on the importance of managing stress for ITDs and highlights strategies you can employ to position yourself for success in the NDEB equivalency process.

No. 2: Strengthen your knowledge of and develop your financial plan

Financing the NDEB equivalency process can be a major source of stress for ITDs. Exam fees, plus courses and materials can easily total more than $100,000. This does not account for general living expenses. Many newcomer ITDs burn through their savings in order to get through the process. Have a plan and learn what resources are available to help you. Organizations like Windmill offer low-interest loans, of up to $15,000, for ITDs to pay for the costs of qualifying exams, training, even childcare while you study. Windmill and CIBC have also partnered to offer ITDs special access to a staggered line of credit that increases your borrowing limit as you advance through the equivalency process.

The process is stressful enough, having a financial plan will allow you to focus on your exam preparation.

Want to find out if you are eligible for an affordable Windmill microloan, of up to $15,000, to pay for the costs of the NDEB equivalency process? Take our two-minute online loan eligibility quiz. Click here.

No. 3: Take a preparatory course

There are several training institutes that exist to help ITDs prepare for the NDEB equivalency exams. Each exam can take months of dedicated studying and practice in order to pass. A good training institute will help guide your preparation. The courses are expensive but they will save you time and increase your probability of success. One word of caution, do your research before selecting a training institute as the quality of training varies greatly. Training at a subpar institution will cost you money and will leave you unprepared for your examination. Connect with other ITDs and those who have successfully completed the equivalency process for recommendations on which training institutions may be the best fit for you.

No. 4: Put your ego aside

You worked hard to become a dentist. You may have practiced for several years in your country of origin. Having to complete the NDEB equivalency exams can make you feel like you are reliving that process. Your ego may prevent you from preparing adequately as you may think you know better. Consider this process an opportunity to re-learn the basics and to learn new standards and practices. Come at it with an open mind. Your extensive experience will benefit you but don’t let it hinder your preparation.

If you are just beginning this process, try to keep in mind why you decided to become a dentist in Canada. The opportunities can be professionally and financially rewarding. If you speak to any ITD who has completed the process they will likely tell you that it is hard but ultimately worth it.

For more information on the dentist licensing process in Canada, exam preparation and financial supports available, consult the resources below:

Categorized in: Accreditation and Licensing, In-demand Jobs, Newcomer Health and Wellness, Education and Training,