How to Become a Dentist in Ontario

To become a dentist in Ontario the only thing you need is to become a member of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario.

Becoming a Member of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario

All practicing dentists in Ontario must be registered and obtain a license from the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO).

Some people get adventurous and try to practice without a license, they get taken to court and are ordered to stop practicing. In Canada, the practice of dentistry is restricted to licensed dentists.

To be a registered and licensed member of the RCDSO you must meet certain requirements, the main requirements are:

  1. Obtain a university degree in dentistry, must be at least 4 years of dental study
  2. Receive a certificate of completion from the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB)
  3. Successfully complete the RCDSO’s Jurisprudence and Ethics course
  4. Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or have the authorization by the Government of Canada to work as a healthcare professional in Canada

Obtaining a University Degree in Dentistry: Accredited vs. Non-Accredited

You can obtain a dental degree anywhere in the world and be eligible to become a dentist in Ontario as long as your dental degree is from a university (not a college) and the program is at least 4 years in length.

However, the RCDSO and the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB) treats graduation from different educational institutions differently based on 2 categories: accredited university degree and non-accredited university degree. 

The path to obtaining the NDEB certificate differs considerably between accredited and non-accredited Universities so let’s be specific about which schools are accredited by the RCDSO:

A graduate of an accredited university only needs to take the written exam and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination to obtain a certificate of completion from the National Dental Examining Board of Canada. If a university does not appear on the above list, then the dental program is not accredited by the RCDSO.

International Applicants from Non-Accredited Universities

International Applicants from non-accredited universities must meet one of two special requirements before being allowed to write the NDEB written and OSCE:

OR

  • Successful completion of the NDEB Equivalency Process involving three assessments:
    • Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK)
    • Assessment of Clinical Judgement (ACJ)
    • Assessment of Clinical Skills (ACS)
Becoming a Dentist in Ontario: International Applicants from Non-Accredited Universities

Gaining a Certificate of Completion for the National Dental Examining Board of Canada:

The National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB) is the organization responsible for establishing and maintaining a national standard of competence of dentists in all of Canada. All dentists must complete these examinations before receiving a license. 

There are 2 parts to the NDEB examination: Written Exam and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). Both parts are based on the competencies of a beginning dental practitioner in Canada which includes one’s understanding of dental concepts and theories, their applications, and the ethical and legal requirements of the dental profession. 

The NDEB written examination consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. All dentists must receive at least a re-scaled score of 75/150 to pass.

The Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) is a clinical scenario based exam, the format of which consists of single answer and multi-answer multiple-choice questions (MCQs), as well as constructed response questions.

Completion of the RCDSO’s Jurisprudence and Ethics Course:

Once you obtain the NDEB certification, the last step to obtain registration and license with the RCDSO is to take and pass the RCDSO ethics course.

The RCDSO’s Jurisprudence and Ethics course is designed to provide applicants with information about the legal and ethical responsibilities for practising dentistry in Ontario. It is composed of four sections which span a length of 12 modules. The four sections are:

  • About the RCDO and your Introduction to Jurisprudence & Ethics (three modules)
  • Patient Care (three modules)
  • Legal Responsibility (four modules)
  • Practice Management (three modules)

Throughout the course, you will be required to complete quizzes and scenarios related to the workplace. This course is very straightforward compared to all the other testing leading to this final step.

Chronological Summary of How to Become a Dentist in Ontario:

  1. Obtain an Undergraduate University Education

The requirements for dental school differ around the world. Dental schools in Canada and the USA are not a direct entry program which means that to become a qualified applicant for dental school one must do 2, 3 or 4 years of undergraduate university studies before being eligible to apply to dental school. 

  1. Obtain a Dental Degree

Get a 4 or 4+ year dental degree from a university anywhere in the world. The path to becoming a dentist in Ontario will differ depending on if the dental program you attended is accredited by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO).

  1. Acquire certification by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB)

If your dental program is accredited by the RCDSO, to get the NDEB certification, you will be writing 2 exams in the final year of your dental program: the written NDEB exam and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).

If your dental program is not accredited by the RCDSO, to get the NDEB certification, you have two paths to becoming a dentist in Ontario.

Path #1: Write the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK) which is administered by the NDEB, then apply and complete one of the accredited Qualifying/Degree Completion Programs. In the final year of the dental program, you will be writing the same two NDEB exams as the students from accredited dental programs.

Path #2: NDEB Equivalency Process consists of 3 examinations: 1) Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK) and 2) Assessment of Clinical Judgement (ACJ) and 3) Assessment of Clinical Skills (ACS). Then, like students from accredited universities, two more exams: Written NDEB Exam and the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).

  1. Registration with RCDSO: Specific Additional Requirements:
  • Successful completion of the RCDSO’s Jurisprudence and Ethics course
  • Be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident or have the authorization by Government of Canada to work as a healthcare professional in Canada

CONGRATULATIONS, you are now a licensed dentist in Ontario!

FAQ: How Long Does it Take to Become a Dentist in Ontario?

There are many paths to becoming a dentist in Ontario. The most common path takes 8 years: 4 years of undergraduate studies and then 4 years of dental school.

There is a considerable range in how long it takes to become a dentist in Ontario from 5 years to 14 years.

The fastest path to becoming a dentist in Ontario would be to go to dental school at the Université de Montréal (UdeM). They accept applicants directly out of high school into their 5-year program. So the absolute minimum number of years from high school graduation to become a practicing dentist can be 5 years. The labour mobility agreements between Ontario and other Canadian provinces/territories grant graduates the ability to apply for a licence in Ontario without obtaining or undergoing additional training, experience, examinations or assessments. This means that out-of-province graduates have the ability to practice in Ontario.

The other 9 dental schools in Canada are 4 years in length, but require a different minimum number of years of undergraduate studies before being able to apply. 4 of the 10 dental schools in Canada require 2 years, 3 schools require 3 years, 2 schools require 4 years. So respectively it can take 6, 7 and 8 years to become a dentist.

Getting into dental school is very competitive. It is common for students with master’s degrees and even PhDs to be entering dental school, as such for these students the path is respectively 10 and 14 years to become a dentist.

The above timelines do not include the time it takes to become a specialist such as an oral surgeon, orthodontist or endodontist which takes another 3-4 years of additional training depending on the specialty.

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