Becoming a dentist in Canada is dependent on certain factors including the province/territory you wish to study in and the school at which you were educated at. This post provides a detailed insight into the process of becoming a dentist from start to finish, no matter what educational background or country you come from. There are 5 steps in becoming a practicing dentist in Canada:
- Obtaining a Bachelor’s Undergraduate Degree
- Obtaining a University Degree in Dentistry
- Completion of an Exam from the National Dental Examining Board of Canada
- Registration with the Dentistry College in your Province/Territory
- Additional Steps for International Applicants from Non-Accredited Universities
Obtaining a Bachelor’s Undergraduate Degree
Depending on the country you reside in the dental school requirements differ around the world. For example, some universities in Europe accept dental school applicants directly from high school, which offers a quicker route to your dental degree but also creating some challenges to those wishing to practice in Canada (More on that later).
The easiest route to becoming a practicing dentist in Canada is to study dentistry in Canada. If you wish to study dentistry in a dental school in Canada please be aware that these programs are not a direct entry program. This means that qualified applicants must have completed 2, 3 or 4 years of undergraduate university study first. The exact nature of your degree does not matter, however you must be certain that you meet specific requirements for each dental school in Canada if you wish to pursue a dental education in Canada. This will include course prerequisites, program length, and GPA requirements.
Obtaining a University Dental Degree: Non-Accredited vs Accredited
The next step to becoming a dentist involves obtaining a dentistry degree from a 4-year program at a University.
In Canada, dental educational institutions are categorized into two groups: accredited university degrees and non-accredited university degrees. The full list of accredited university degrees in Canada includes:
- All ten dental schools in Canada. Those who wish to know more about the entry requirements for these dental schools can click here.
- All 68 dental schools in the USA. Those who wish to know more about the entry requirements for these dental schools can click here.
- All 9 dental schools in Australia (for graduates on or after March 31, 2010)
- Both of the 2 New Zealand dental schools (for graduates on or after December 14, 2011)
- 2 of the 3 dental schools in Ireland: the University of Dublin and National University of Ireland (for graduates on or after December 5, 2012)
- King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia (for graduates on or after August 1, 2019)
All other university dental programs are not accredited in Canada. Graduates from non-accredited universities must complete additional steps to become practicing dentists in Canada. These steps will be listed at the end of this post.
Gaining a Certificate of Completion for the National Dental Examining Board of Canada
The National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB) is the organization liable for establishing and maintaining the national standard for all practicing dentists in Canada. Every dentist must complete an examination from the NDEB before being able to practice. Usually, this examination is taken upon completion of a dentistry degree.
There are 2 parts to the NDEB examination:
- Written Exam
- Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE)
Both parts of the exam are based on the competencies of a beginning dental practitioner in Canada. These competencies include one’s understanding of dental concepts and theories, their applications, as well as the ethical and legal requirements of your profession.
The NDEB written examination has been comprised of 150 multiple choice questions for the past few years. Dentists must receive at least a re-scaled score of 75/150 to pass. In general, dentists who have performed well in dental school have reported no difficulties passing this exam.
The OSCE is a clinical scenario-based exam, the format of which consists of single answer and multi-answer multiple-choice questions, as well as long answer questions.
Becoming a Member of the College of Dentistry in the Province/Territory you wish to Practice in
In Canada, only licensed dentists may practice dentistry. Each province/territory has its own dental governing body in place from which they can obtain their license. Some people get adventurous and try to practice without a license, which can result in various disastrous consequences such as getting taken to court.
Most dental colleges require dentists to meet certain requirements. The main requirements are:
- Obtain a university degree in dentistry, must be at least 4 years of dental study
- A certificate of completion from the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB)
- Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or have the authorization by the Government of Canada to work as a healthcare professional in Canada
In addition to this, some colleges have additional requirements. For example, the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO) also requires practicing dentists in Ontario to complete an RCDSO’s Jurisprudence and Ethics course. We have an in-depth guide for becoming a dentist in Ontario for those who are interested. For other provinces/territories, we recommend that you double-check specific requirements with each college listed below:
- Ontario: Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario
- British Columbia: College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia
- Quebec: Ordre des dentistes du Québec
- Nova Scotia: Provincial Dental Board of Nova Scotia
- Newfoundland and Labrador: Newfoundland & Labrador Dental Association
- New Brunswick: New Brunswick Dental Society
- Prince Edward Islands: Prince Edward Island Dental Council
- Alberta: Alberta Dental Association and College
- Saskatchewan: College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan
- Manitoba: Manitoba Dental Association
- Yukon Territory: Yukon Dental Association
- Nunavut/Northwest Territories: Northwest Territories & Nunavut Dental Association
Upon successful licensing congratulations! You are now free to practice in the province/territory you work in!
Additional Steps for International Applicants from Non-Accredited Universities
If you are a graduate of a non-accredited university you must meet either of two special requirements before being allowed to practice anywhere in Canada. Only one of these options has to be completed:
- Completion of an accredited Qualifying/Degree Completion Program as well as the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK) assessment
- Completion of the NDEB Equivalency Process which involves three assessments: