Foreign Trained Dentist · Motivation

How to choose a dental school

Are you one of those people who got multiple acceptances? Awesome! Now you have a big decision to make.

Here’s some advice on how to choose the right school. This is a draft from my upcoming handbook for foreign trained dentists. Subscribe to the blog to learn when its ready!


Let’s face it, ultimately where you got your DDS or DMD does not matter. What matters is that you got it and then you get licensed to finally practice and impact your community! However, the cost of an education can either cripple you or can lighten the weight on your shoulders. Consider this carefully when choosing a school. You want to be able to pay off your student loans as quickly as possible. TIP: It becomes harder to justify a practice loan upwards of $500K when you want to buy a practice and haven’t yet paid off your student loan. During economic downturns, banks don’t look at it very kindly. Your interest rates will always be different from your friend who went to a public, lower cost school. 

Proximity to family and jobs

Isn’t the ability to practice the reason why you went to school? If your family is in California and you want to practice there eventually, why do you want to take an acceptance elsewhere? It is extremely hard to find a job in a new state, or a state you did not go to school in. The same applies for acquiring a practice. If you did, for lack of options, go to school in a different state than your home state, remember to continue networking within organized dentistry in your home state so it becomes easier for you to find an associateship. 

TIP: If you do end up going to a school that is not in your home state or want to relocate elsewhere after graduation, consider reaching out to dental schools, local dental societies and Study Clubs in your destination city while still in school. Make it a point to meet people and network as much as you can over the break. Look for internships or shadowing opportunities to take up during your breaks. All these little things will help you connect with more people and build authentic relationships. 

Photo by Gus Ruballo on Unsplash

Getting licensed

Practicing dentistry in the US, like in other countries, requires getting a dental license after graduation. This is a long and expensive process, that involves several smaller exams and at the time of this writing, a clinical board examination. There are 5 types of clinical board examinations, each of them giving you the ability to apply for licensure in different states of the US. If you’re one of those lucky few that have multiple dental school acceptances, pick carefully so you save yourself the stress of trying to coordinate a board examination in another state. 

Some schools allow you to take the board examination on site while others require you to fly to another city, and take patients with you! This quickly adds to costs and overall anxiety. Make the right decision of where you want to go to school. Buying a practice:

Buying a practice

If you’re looking to own a practice right after school, look into dental specific demographics as early as possible, maybe even while applying to dental schools. This will give you an amazing head start. Our most successful peers are those that planned ahead and used their time wisely. When I was enjoying my holidays back in Dubai, some of my colleagues in dental school were taking up internships at private offices and looking for practices to acquire. One dental student did demographic testing while in his 2nd year of dental school. As a result, he had a wonderful practice to buy within months of graduation. 


I went to a school where we were integrated into a class full of domestic students on day 1. Many international students will never have this experience, but for me it was one of the most important reasons I chose to go to University of Washington. I wanted to be in a collaborative environment and learn and grow with my domestic colleagues. If you have an opportunity to go to a school like this, I’d highly encourage it. My integrated class is the way I met my best friend and co-founder of the New Dentist Business Club. You will get exposed to different views, and learn about classmates from different parts of the state and country! That said, you may not have some of the unique advantages that individualized international programs in other schools get. Pick your battle!

All the best. Remember to subscribe and reach out if you have questions! For more info on the handbook, head to this page.

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