Can US Dentists Practice in Canada?

Thousands of Americans move to Canada annually. If you’re a dentist trained in America and planning to move to Canada, you’ll want to know what it’s like to be a dentist in Canada. But first, can a US dentist practice in Canada?

Yes, a US-trained dentist can practice in Canada. But the process isn’t simple. As a general dentist, you’ll need to pass the NDEB exams, get the certificate and then get licensed in the province you wish to practice. The process is similar for dental specialists, except that the exam is different.

However, the complex processes involved shouldn’t discourage you. All these processes are in place because dentistry is a regulated profession in Canada. That said, this article examines how a US dentist can become licensed to practice in Canada.

How To Become a Dentist in Canada

You need a license to work as a dentist in Canada, but each province has its Dental Regulatory Authority which determines what you must do to get licensed. Before getting a license from the DRA, the National Dental Examining Board of Canada is the first point of call. It’s in charge of the overall certification process for those trained in or outside of Canada.

For those moving to Canada from another country, the process for becoming a dentist in the country depends on whether their dental degree is from an accredited or recognized institution or not. Since you’re moving from the US, your dental degree is most likely from an accredited institution. In that case, there are two pathways for becoming a practicing dentist in Canada.

Pathway for a General Dentist

If you’re trained in the US and seeking to obtain a general dental license, you need to first ensure that your dental degree program is recognized and accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC). Once you’re sure of that, here are the steps to become a practicing dentist in Canada

1.        Pass the NDEB Exams

The National Dental Examining Board of Canada certificate is key to your practice in Canada. It’s the first thing you’ll need to do as someone who wants to practice in Canada.  There are two exams you have to take

NDEB Written Examination: This exam assesses your knowledge of basic science, applied clinical science, and your judgement as a dental practitioner about to start practicing in Canada. The content of the exam is based on the Beginning Dental Practitioner competency. The exam has two sessions, each of which lasts for 150 minutes in a single day. There are 300 multiple-choice questions that you must answer.

OSCE: This is the Objective Structured Clinical Examination, and it assesses your clinical judgment by examining individual aspects such as diagnostics, prognosis, treatment planning, clinical decision-making, and treatment methods. The exam has two sessions made up of 50 MCQs each, and you’ll have to take both sessions in a day.  The examination is usually comprehensive and provides information such as dental charts, case history, radiographs, photographs, etc., for you to review before answering a question. The multiple-choice questions have up to 15 options, and there could be more than one correct answer. There are also constructed response questions that you have to provide a suitable prescription for a dental condition. Like the written exam, the OSCE is based on a Beginning Dental Practitioner competency.

By 2023, the NDEB plans to replace the written examination and OSCE with the NDEB Virtual OSCE, which will be one electronic examination to be written in a single day.

2.       Get NDEB Certificate

The NDEB Certificate is given after passing the written examination and OSCE. Upon certification, your name will enter the national register, and you will get a hard copy of the NDEB certificate via mail. The certificate doesn’t expire, which means you only have to write the exam once. After that, you’ll have to submit proof of graduation to the NDEB which means requesting your dental school in the US to send an original official transcript of your final marks directly to the NDEB. Such a transcript must include the date you got the degree.

3.       Get License

You need to be licensed as a dentist to practice in Canada. Licensing is handled differently in each province, so you need to reach out to the Dental Regulatory Authority (DRA) of whichever province you’re planning to live in to get any information you need. The DRAs may ask for evidence of language proficiency, jurisprudence tests, and other documentation before issuing a licence.

Pathway for Dental Specialists

If you are a dental specialist from the US, becoming a licensed dentist in Canada is a little different.   Generally, you must have a master’s degree from an accredited dental specialty program. In addition, the degree must be from a university dental institution recognized in Canada either through an NDEB-approved mutual recognition agreement or accreditation process.

Also, your specialty must be recognized in Canada. There are nine dental specialties in Canada. They are: Dental Public Health, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Pediatric Dentistry, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Periodontics, Oral Medicine and/or Oral Pathology, Orthodontics, Prosthodontics, and Endodontics.

Once you meet all these criteria, you can take the National Dental Specialty Examination (NDSE) to get the NDEB-NDSE certificate. The exam is based on an entry-level dental specialist competency, and it’ll test your knowledge of that specialty in terms of clinical diagnosis, treatment planning, and basic sciences. It is a one-day examination, and it is electronic. Once you pass it, the process for getting your certificate and license is similar to that of a general dentist.

Tips for Becoming a Licenced Dentist in Canada

The process for becoming a practicing dentist in Canada is a complex and tasking process. Here are a few tips that will guide you along the way

  1. Prepare for the Exams

It’s crucial to never underestimate the exams, even if you’ve been practicing for years in the US before migrating to Canada. Preparation is very important. Ways to do this includes using the online self-assessment tool of NDEB to gauge your ability and attending Dental Training Simulation Centres.

  1. Arrange Funds to Cover Exams and Licencing

Dental exams and licensing procedures cost a lot of money which means you need to make room for that cost. In addition, since you can’t practice as a dentist before the license, that means you’ll be earning less. There are programs that provide financial support for immigrants to help them achieve their career goals.

In Conclusion

US dentists can practice in Canada. But it’s not a simple process. It involves various examinations to get certified before applying for a license in the province where you want to practice.

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