How to talk to employers about being a foreign trained dentist

Based on the ADA Health Policy Institute, foreign trained dentists account for 5% of all graduating dentists in the US. Despite of this, most struggle while navigating employment opportunities after school.

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I faced some difficulty and confusion when I was getting ready to graduate. Things may be similar, if not worse, for foreign trained graduates looking to get licensed and begin working in the post pandemic world. Here are some soft skills worth knowing about before you begin the job search:

Begin as early as possible

Most owner dentists anticipate bringing on an associate about 3-6 months in advance. Some think about it for almost a year before putting out an ad on craigslist. Even though, you might not find anyone looking for a job in the exact time frame that you are looking to join, getting an idea of the job market in your chosen demographic is very useful. Include federally qualified health centers and dental service organizations, along with private practices, in your search.

A killer resume

Preparing an excellent resume and LinkedIn profile, along with a professional headshot and cover letter, are things you should begin working on at least 6 months in advance. Have multiple people read your resume and sample cover letters, to check for grammatical errors and flow.

Look everywhere

Indeed, Craigslist and LinkedIn are only the basics. Networking with dentists at society meetings, talking to your professors, and meeting with vendors (reps for Dentsply Sirona, Patterson etc); all help you find a job! You can also put out an ad in a dental newsletter and ask to be featured as a hopeful new associate on websites like Dental Nachos and Ignite DDS. Join all the dental Facebook groups in your community and ask moderators before posting for job connections. If you have a good social media presence, use it to your best advantage and reach out to everyone in your network.

Bottom Line Up Front

‘Foreign trained dentist looking for visa sponsorship’ should be on the top of your resume. This allows you to effectively filter out employers who are not interested, or do not have the ability, to sponsor a visa. This will save you and a potential employer, time.

‘Foreign trained dentist looking for visa sponsorship’ should be on the top of your resume.

Dental specific attorneys

If you find an owner dentist who is willing to sponsor a visa but does not know how to do so, point him to an attorney who specializes in dental contracts and in immigration. Dental schools are able to provide you with vetted attorney contacts. After consulting with attorneys, many owner dentists might decide not to go through with the process. Some dentists, however, will decide that you are worth the hassle!

Talk about your experience

Many of you have 5, maybe 10 years of work experience before becoming US trained. That is amazing, talk about it! Communicate, that while you are able to confidently perform several procedures in a clinical setting, you are an avid learner and enjoy getting constructive feedback. Generally, people like team members that are positive, happy and easy to teach. Demonstrate all three in an interview and you have less to worry about.


If you speak other languages, put that in bold on your resume. Dental offices are always looking for new patients. So, having the ability to speak different languages will help offices interact with a previously untapped client base. This is a huge benefit to any practice! Make sure to mention this in your interview.

Pay negotiation

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When you do find an associateship, don’t be afraid to negotiate pay. Check with a dental specific attorney what the average rate of production offered to new graduates in the area is. Use that range to negotiate. Ask also, if you are permitted to shadow existing dentists, schedule special time for it. This is a great way to understand what you are getting into! Ask about how much the dentist before you, on average, was producing per day so that you can estimate your pay. Ask what insurances the practice takes, and if it is heavy PPO, Medicaid or fee-for-service. Reimbursements of all three are very different and will directly impact the number of patients you see in a day. Most dentists see between 8-10 patients a day and run up to 2 columns simultaneously. Ask if the practice will pay for any CE in the future.

Get as many details as possible

Ask how many assistants you would be working with. Would you be sharing those assistants with other dentists? Does the practice have their own hygienist or are you expected to do some hygiene? Ask what procedures are bringing in the most revenue for the practice? What kind of procedures are you expected to perform? Do you need additional certifications prior to your first day?

It’s not personal

If people decide not to hire you after several interviews and consultations with lawyers, do not be disheartened. This is reality and something I too went through while looking for an associateship. Maintain cordial relationships with everyone, thank them for their time, and do not burn any bridges (someone unable to offer you a job today, might have an incredible opportunity a year later).

Vision for the future

If you hope to acquire a practice, 3-5 years down the line, keep in mind that most states enforce a non-compete. These can range up to 2 years and include up to 10 miles (in rural settings, usually about 3 in a very urban setting). If you want to buy your own practice in NYC, for example, it might be a better idea to work in a suburb for the first few years.

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If you are a dental student currently, ask to have foreign trained dentists speak at your ‘lunch and learns’. Your non foreign trained classmates should have the opportunity to understand what the process of employment looks like for you. This is in their best interest as they will be your colleagues in the near future. All of you need to learn how to advocate for one another. It makes our dental society stronger, collectively.

Best of luck in your job search!

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