Study Dentistry in the USA: A Complete Guide (2022)

Dentistry in the USA for international students: top courses, colleges, fees, entry requirements, and career scope

Dentistry is one of the most expensive professions in the USA. There are two kinds of degrees offered by the USA universities, a DDS, a Doctor of Dental Surgery or a DMD, a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry, or a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree (both, DDS and DMD are equivalent). It takes four years to complete a DDS or DMD degree (an exception is a three-year program offered by the University of the Pacific). 

Upon completion of a DDS or DMD degree, aspiring dentists can opt for general dentistry or a dental specialty program and are expected to complete a residency program in both to gain their license. The length of residency for general dentistry is usually one year, while the duration of a dental specialty residency can be two to six years depending on the specialization.

The following is a complete guide to dentistry studies in the USA, particularly for overseas students. It includes everything from top colleges, courses, fees, admission requirements, and career scope after a dental degree in the USA. Keep reading to learn how to get into a dental school in the USA.

Overview of Dentistry programs in the USA

Here is some of the brief highlights of dental programs in the USA.

Intake  Mid May 2022 (currently open)
Deadline for application  Early February 2023
Fee structure for DDS or DMD degree (tentative) 67,610 to 94,783 USD*/year
Accommodation fees (tentative) 900 to 2,000 USD* per month
Cost of living (tentative) 39,886 USD*/year
Duration of DDS or DMD degree  Three to four years
Duration of dental specialty  One to six years 
Medium of instruction  English
Average salary  158,940 USD*/year (US News & World Report)

*Note: All prices mentioned in the USD are for reference only. Exchange rates may vary from time to time and from country to country.

Why study Dentistry in the USA?

There are many reasons to study dentistry in the USA. Dentistry is a highly rewarding career in the USA that pays well and offers many opportunities to serve people and make communities healthier places. The following are some of the most valid reasons to consider pursuing dentistry in the USA.

  • The USA undoubtedly has the best dental colleges in the world that provide excellent quality education using the latest technology
  • Dentistry is listed in the U.S. News & World Report as the “100 Best Jobs”
  • The degrees from US universities are recognized all over the world
  • According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth will be 7.6%, resulting in 10,400 additional dentist positions by 2028
  • The dental profession in the USA offers a diverse range of clinical, research, and academic options to both new graduates and dentists at any stage of their careers
  • Dentists in the USA can practice on their own, giving them flexibility and independence to achieve a balanced life
  • The cultural diversity makes the USA a perfect study destination for international students 

Pathways to a Dental degree in the USA

Since dentistry in the USA is a post-graduate degree, students need to have a bachelor’s degree in science before getting admitted to DDS or DMD program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Also, as a part of the application process, American colleges require candidates to take the Dental Aptitude Test (DAT). The DAT is made up of four exams with multiple-choice questions that are given in English:

  • The Natural Sciences Survey (100 items)
  • Ability to Perceive (90 items)
  • Comprehension of Text (50 items)
  • Quantitative Analysis (40 items)

The exam is offered throughout the year at a variety of locations around the USA, and each school has its own criteria for considering DAT scores in admission choices. The exam can be taken during a student’s junior year of undergraduate studies or between junior and senior years.

International students applying for a dental school in the USA fall into three categories:

  1. Students who have completed their high school education and wish to apply for a DDS or DMD program at a US dental school
  2. Students who are currently studying a dental program in a foreign university and intend to transfer their credits and complete their degree in the USA
  3. Students who already have a bachelor’s degree in dentistry from a foreign university

All the international students are required to pass the prerequisite courses in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics with labwork and qualify for DAT before applying. They also need to prove their English proficiency. Upon competition of these requirements categories (1) and (2), students can apply for a four years DDS or DMD program at a US dental school. Category (3) international students should obtain a DDS or DMD degree from a CODA-accredited program by attending an advanced standing program via the ADEA Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists (ADEA CAAPID). The duration of an advanced standing program is shorter than the traditional DDS or DMD degree. 

Upon completion of their DDS or DMD programs and specialties, all aspiring dentists are required to obtain a license. The licensing process for dental degree programs differs from state to state but the three general requirements are as follows:

  • An accredited degree by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)
  • The Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE) (written examination) 
  • Clinical examination

Top universities in the USA for Dentistry 

The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CDA) has accredited more than 69 dental schools in the USA. The following is a list of some of the best universities in the USA as determined by the QS and Shanghai rankings.

University Name QS Ranking (Dentistry) Shanghai Ranking (Dentistry)
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 5 1
University of California, San Francisco 9 5
Harvard University 12 4
University of North Carolina 19 2
New York University 20 15
University of California, Los Angeles 21 6
University of Pennsylvania 22 8
University of Washington 23 7
Columbia University 27 17
Boston University 29 50

Popular Dentistry courses and admission requirements in the USA

DDS or DMD Dental programs and academic requirements

Universities in the USA offer four-year DDS or DMD degrees, which require science coursework and clinical experience (the accelerated degree offered by the University of the Pacific takes only three years to complete). All 50 states in the USA recognize both DDS and DMD degree degrees. 

The general admission requirements for the DDS or DMD degree dental degrees in the USA are

  • A bachelor’s degree in science with a GPA of 3.0 and above (4.0 scale)
  • Academic transcripts
  • Valid passport
  • DAT scores
  • Personal statement 
  • Passport photographs
  • Completed visa application
  • Letter of recommendation
  • English proficiency test scores such as TOEFL (90 and above) or IELTS (6.0 and above)

Dental specialty programs and academic requirements

Upon completion of a DDS or DMD degree, aspiring dentists can opt for a dental specialty program. The duration of a dental specialty residency can be two to six years depending on the specialization. The following is a list of dental specialties that are approved and adopted by the National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards.

  • Dental Anesthesiology
  • Dental Public Health
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral Medicine
  • Orofacial Pain 
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Periodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Prosthodontics

Some general academic requirements for dental specialty programs in the USA are as follows:

  • An accredited DDS or DMD degree in dentistry with a GPA of 3.0 and above (4.0 scale)
  • Academic transcripts 
  • Valid passport
  • Passport photographs
  • DAT score
  • Completed visa application
  • Motivational letter
  • Resume
  • Recommendation letters (preferably two)
  • Work experience (highly recommended) 
  • English language proficiency (TOEFL 90 or above and IELTS 6.0 and above)

In addition to the DDS or DMD degree and specialties, students can also go for the certificate or diploma dental hygiene programs which are offered at both bachelor’s and master’s level by various universities in the USA. There are also options for integrated degrees, such as a DDS or DMD degree with a public health degree. Students can also go for Ph.D. degrees in dentist4ry if they wish to enter research or academics. 

Career options after Dentistry in the USA

There are plenty of career opportunities after getting a dentistry degree in the USA to suit every dentist’s preferences, goals, and lifestyles. After getting DDS or DMD degree, dentists can either practice as private dentists by opening their own dental clinic or work for public or private dental hospitals. Since dentistry is a highly competitive field in the USA, most dentists go for specialties in the field like

  • Dental Anesthesiology
  • Dental Public Health
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral Medicine
  • Orofacial Pain 
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Periodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Prosthodontics

The dental specialties 

Admission process for Dentistry courses in the USA

Students who are interested in applying to dentistry courses in the USA can do so through the ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (ADEA AADSAS), a centralized service for dental schools in the USA. Gyanberry is another option for students who want to ensure a timely and swift application procedure. Students can apply to the University of South Dakota for its dental hygiene program, and to New Mexico Military Institute for its pre-dental courses through Gyanberry. The following is the general application process for dentistry courses in the USA.

  • Complete the ADEA AADSAS online application form with accurate information and submit it along with the official college and university transcripts
  • Students need to schedule a date to take the U.S. Dental Admission Test (DAT), administered by the American Dental Association (ADA)
  • Attend a personal interview by universities as a part of the admission process
  • Upon selection students will receive an offer letter from the respective university
  • Pay the fees in full or in part, depending upon the university’s requirements
  • Following payment of fees, students can begin the VISA application process and make travel plans
  • Fly to the USA upon receiving student VISA
  • Make plans for accommodation and pay the deposit in advance

Dental school fees and cost of living in the USA

The cost of living in America is relatively high. Therefore, students studying dentistry in the USA should ensure that they have sufficient funds to cover housing and living expenses in addition to the annual fees. The fees for dental courses can range from 67,610 to 94,783 USD*/year for a DDS or DMD degree. 

The cost of living in the USA considering dentistry programs can be broken down into

  • Room (900 to 2,000 USD* per month depending on the type of room and location)
  • Personal expenses including food, transportation, and other utilities (5,052 USD*/year)
  • Medical insurance (4,404 USD*/year)
  • Dental instrument rentals and purchases (6,430 USD*/year)

Scholarships, bursaries, and funding options for Dentistry courses in the USA

International students who come to the USA to study dentistry are not eligible for government aid as it is only available to citizens or permanent residents of the USA. Most American dental schools offer scholarships, bursaries, and student loans to international students based on merit and academic success. Students can also contact their embassy’s cultural department or education minister’s office for financial support. Before applying to dentistry school in the USA, students can check out the following scholarships listed by eduPASS.

  • The Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship 
  • The American Association of University Women
  • The Civil Society Leadership Awards 
  • Conacyt 
  • ColFuturo 
  • The Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program 
  • Foreign Fulbright Student Program 
  • MPOWER Financing 
  • The P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship 

*Note: All prices mentioned in the USD are for reference only. Exchange rates may vary from time to time and from country to country.

Frequently Asked Questions

The DAT is a dental admission test that is administered by around 66 dental schools in the USA as a part of their admissions process. The DAT consists of multiple-choice questions in English and includes a set of four tests:

  1. Survey of the Natural Sciences
  2. Perceptual Ability
  3. Reading Comprehension
  4. Quantitative Reasoning

Many universities in the USA expect students to have certain essential physical, cognitive, and emotional skills like communication, observation, motor function, and social and behavioral skills for admission, promotion, and graduation. 

Dentists in the USA make an average of 158,940 USD* each year (US News & World Report).

*Note: All prices mentioned in the USD are for reference only. Exchange rates may vary from time to time and from country to country.