When Pakistani national Zainab Sheikh got married and moved to the U.S., she wanted to build upon the Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree she received from CMH-Lahore Medical College and Institute of Dentistry in Pakistan.
So she applied to the University of Pennsylvania's Program for Advanced Standing Students, a two-and-a half year program for graduates of foreign dental schools seeking to practice dentistry in the U.S.
Many U.S. universities offer qualified graduates of foreign dental programs the opportunity to earn their Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry / Doctor of Dental Medicine. Graduates of D.D.S. or D.M.D. programs will be able to take state or regional board examinations to be eligible for dental licensure and practice within the U.S.
"Receiving a D.M.D degree and practicing as a licensed dentist in the U.S. would allow me to reach my ultimate goal of being a well-rounded clinician, providing the highest standard of health care to my patients," Sheikh says.
Here are some things prospective international dental students should know, including about programs designed specifically for internationally trained dentists.
Degree options. Experts say either a D.D.S. or D.M.D. is acceptable for licensing and both provide the same curriculum.
"Since joining school, I have been fortunate enough to see procedures as well as equipment that we had only read about in books back home," Sheikh says.
Sheikh says students in PASS join U.S. students in the second semester of their second year in dental school and take some courses and exams with them. Then, in the third and fourth year, she says, foreign-trained dentists are fully integrated and participate alongside other students in classes, general practice simulations and rotations through specialty departments.
So far, 888 students from 83 countries have graduated from PASS, according to a university spokesperson.
Iraqi national Ibrahim Saeed, who earned a Bachelor of Dental Surgery from October 6 University in Egypt, is set to graduate with a D.D.S. in June from the University of California—Los Angeles School of Dentistry's Professional Program for International Dentists.
It's a two-year fully integrated advanced standing program for foreign-trained dentists, which Saeed says is very strong in lectures and demonstrations as well as practical training. He says integrating with traditional students helped him become more involved with the school system, faculty, students and patients.
"I feel that the program prepared me to be very confident and ready to use my education and skills to help my patients," Saeed says. He says he has received many offers to work as an associate dentist with private practices in California.
Admissions requirements. Students apply to schools through the American Dental Education Association Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists.
Admissions requirements include the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL. The ADEA CAAPID does not require National Board Dental Examination test results but many programs do have NBDE requirements. An interview and technical exam may also be required.
"ADEA CAAPID typically has about 2,200 individuals who apply each year," says Kellie Bove, senior director of marketing and branding at the American Dental Education Association.
The number of available spots can vary by school. The University of Washington International Dentist D.D.S. program has eight students per year on a 30-month tract, says Daniel C.N. Chan, the program director. The International Dentist Program at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry in California has 32 spots, says the program's director, Michael Fitzpatrick.
"The competition is high and there is only so much you can do to set yourself apart from other candidates," says Indian national Meera Maveli, who has a Bachelor of Dental Surgery from Mahatma Gandhi University in India.