In Canada, dentistry is a regulated profession. This means that becoming an accredited dentist is no easy task. It is both time-consuming and expensive, yet it’s a rewarding process: Canada now ranks among the top five countries to practice dentistry in terms of both salary and professional life. Dentists also happen to be one of the highest-paid doctors in both the United States and Canada, with first-year associate salaries starting at $150,000.
Before we dive deeper into these paths, you have to ensure that dentistry is the right path for you, as most likely you will be spending eight years in school learning the craft. If you have a good eye for detail, great communication skills, consider yourself a bit of an artist, and, most importantly have dedication and passion for the profession, the rest of the article is for you.
As you would expect, all future dentists have to complete some amount of undergraduate studies, preferably with a strong emphasis on sciences and pre-dental education courses included such as inorganic and organic chemistry, biology, physics, genetics, and microbiology.
Most dental schools require a four-year bachelor’s degree; however, some only require a certain amount of credits and courses to be completed. For example, the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry asks for only three years of schooling provided you meet all of the prerequisite courses and have earned more than 15 university credits.
There are over 10 accredited dentistry universities in Canada and the admission requirements will vary from one school to another. It’s your responsibility to contact your preferred institution’s admission office to find out their specific requirements, as most schools tend to be quite competitive.
Dental Aptitude Test (DAT)
Besides finishing your undergrad and preparing your application, you will be required to complete a Dental Aptitude Test (DAT) as part of the admissions process. The test is administered by the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) twice a year, in February and November. DAT is designed to evaluate your abilities in comprehension of scientific information, manual dexterity, and visual perception.
To be considered a successful candidate, you must submit your DAT scores with your application, as it is a mandatory requirement for all dental schools in Canada. Keep in mind that getting a high DAT score does not guarantee your admission to a school of your choice and is merely a chance for you to get your foot in the door. During the revision of your application, dentistry schools will consider a variety of factors including your academic performance, extracurricular activities, and your general passion for dentistry.
Generally, dental schools take four years to finish. The first two years are preclinical, with students learning the fundamentals of dentistry, basic science, and diagnostics. In their 3rd and 4th year, dental students get an opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge in a dental clinic treating patients and shadowing dentists.
Canada has 10 prestigious accredited dental schools to choose from, which include:
- University of Alberta (School of Dentistry)
- University of British Columbia (Faculty of Dentistry)
- Dalhousie University (Faculty of Dentistry)
- University of Manitoba (Faculty of Dentistry)
- University of Toronto (Faculty of Dentistry)
- The University of Western Ontario (School of Dentistry)
- University of Saskatchewan (College of Dentistry)
- McGill University (Faculty of Dentistry)
- Université de Montréal (Faculté de médecine dentaire)
- Université Laval (Faculté de médecine dentaire)
On average, the cost of a dental degree varies from $50,000 to $200,000 for domestic students, with international students sometimes paying up to $360,000. This includes all the academic and non-academic fees, but the cost can vary between the university of your choosing. After completing their studies, students earn the title of either Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM).
To become a licensed dentist in Canada, you must pass numerous examinations offered by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB). You first have to apply to the Canadian Dentistry Equivalency Process and be accepted, but as long as you have a recognized degree you should be accepted automatically.
After you’re accepted, you still have to complete three exams to prove that you have the necessary knowledge to become a practicing dentist. The first one is Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge (AFK) and if you pass the exam, you then have to take Assessment of Clinical Judgement (ACJ) followed by Assessment of Clinical Skills (ACS). Currently, you will have three attempts to pass each of the exams.
If you’re successful in the equivalency process, to become a practicing dentist in Canada you will have to take two board exams (OSCE and Written). These exams are a requirement and tend to be extremely difficult and to pass you will have to dedicate lots of time and resources to your studying. The whole certification process (including the equivalency stage) can cost up to $50,000 including the exam and course fees, along with required materials for the actual exams.
Once you become fully licensed, there are many options for employment, as dentists continue to be in high demand. You can become a part of research groups or join a private practice, where you get to work with other dentists. If you have a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, you can even start your very own dental practice and strive towards financial freedom.
Internationally trained dentists
If you’re already a qualified dentist in another country, you have the option to accelerate your studies. For example, the University of Toronto offers the International Dentist Advanced Placement Program (IDAPP), which places you in the third year of the dental school directly. This means that instead of four years, you will be able to earn your doctorate in just two.
These are generally referred to as bridging courses and are offered in many dentistry schools in Canada to bridge the gap between international and Canadian dental training. To qualify for this course, you will need to apply to NDEB and complete the AFK with a high score. Depending on the school, it can cost up to $90,000 to complete the bridging course.
If you’re an internationally trained dentist who graduated from a non-accredited dental program and can’t take the AFK due to that, you have the option of completing the Dental Specialty Core Knowledge Examination (DSCKE) after applying to NDEB. This won’t make you qualified for the bridging courses but you will have the option to complete the Dental Specialty Assessment and Training Program (DSATP), which is offered at The University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry, The University of British Columbia Faculty of Dentistry, The University of Alberta Department of Dentistry. These six months preparatory programs will allow you to enter the third year of the dental school directly, much like a bridging course would.
After you complete your studies, you will still be required to pass the board exams offered by NDEB to earn your certification and start practicing in Canada.