What are the pathways to registration in Ontario and Canada?

For those who are at the beginning stages of considering where to do their training, it would be wise to complete a recognized/accredited dental program in order to avoid additional cost and time. This means a dental program offered in Canada or one accepted through a reciprocal agreement, namely, programs in the United States, Australia (for those who graduated on or after March 2010), New Zealand (for those who graduated on or after December 14, 2011) and Ireland (for those who graduated on or after December 5, 2012).

The accreditation system in Canada is administered by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC). It reviews educational programs utilizing the Competencies for the Beginning Dental Practitioner in Canada established by the National Dental Examining Board.

Programs and services meeting or exceeding the CDAC’s requirements are granted accredited status. The starting point within accreditation is the CDAC’s development, approval and ongoing revision of accreditation requirements. Educational programs and dental services are invited to apply for review against current requirements. Programs apply by submitting detailed documentation that outlines evidence addressing their compliance with accreditation requirements. A site visit is then arranged and an accreditation survey team conducts interviews with faculty and students to secure additional information.

The accreditation survey team is comprised of educators in the specific discipline, a representative of the regulatory authority and a representative of the certification organization (if applicable). A survey team in Australia, for example, includes representatives from both CDAC and the Australian Dental Council. This assures that the same outcome measurements are used and accreditation standards are met throughout Canada and Australia.

This process clarifies issues arising from the submission and generally verifies that the documentation reflects the program or service.

The survey team then submits a report to CDAC for review at its annual meeting. CDAC then determines the eligibility of the program or service for accreditation or continuing accreditation.

Dental councils/boards in other countries are welcome to contact CDAC to discuss the possibility of being accredited through a reciprocal agreement.

For international graduates coming from non-accredited programs, the two-year advanced standing or bridging programs are used to prepare candidates for the health care culture and environment in Canada and to upgrade their skills to Canadian standards.

There are over 70 universities throughout Canada and the United States where individuals could apply for admission to this kind of program. Given the agreements with Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, similar completion of an advanced standing program leading to the issuance of a dental degree from those countries would be recognized.

For information regarding American dental schools and regulatory boards, please contact:
The American Dental Association

For information about Australia:
The Australian Dental Council

For information about New Zealand:
The New Zealand Dental Council

For a list of accredited dental programs in Ireland, please contact:
The Irish Dental Council

An alternate pathway to determine whether a graduate of an international dental program is substantially similar to a graduate of an accredited program and competent to practice was started by NDEB in 2010. In this pathway, credential evaluations are not used to determine eligibility.

An individual who successfully completes a series of assessments will be eligible to take the final national NDEB certification examination. All applicants including graduates of accredited programs must take this examination. Applicants are eligible to participate in the NDEB Equivalency Process provided that a candidate's documents are not fraudulent, and there are no other factors to suggest ineligibility.

The highlights of the Equivalency Process are:

  • access from anywhere in the world to a voluntary web-based self-assessment tool.

  • submission of an application and supporting documentation through the NDEB website. The NDEB also conducts a credential verification to eliminate fraud.

  • an Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge which is a one day theoretical exam to verify basic training.

  • an Assessment of Clinical Skills, which is a two-day evaluation of psychomotor skills and judgements during which participants perform simulated dental procedures on a mannequin;

  • an Assessment of Clinical Judgement which is a one-day high level case based examination.

Candidates who fail any of the assessments may retake the assessment to a maximum of three attempts.

It is important to note that the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge is a screening examination to assist in determining the level of training of international candidates. It is not given to graduates of accredited programs because what they are taught is outlined in their curricula. Students in accredited programs are also continually assessed throughout their four-year program.

There is a substantial difference between the various NDEB written formats, called blueprints, and the level of difficulty. The Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge is a fair and scientifically grounded test of basic knowledge. With proper preparation it is not difficult to pass for those whose training is substantially similar to Canadian accredited training. Unsuccessful candidates need to seriously consider their options as the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge is a legitimate first indicator as to whether the candidate’s training was sufficient by Canadian standards. Participants will have three opportunities to pass the test.
Candidates in the Equivalency Process do not attend classes. They participate in dispersed assessments. This means they are able to be employed (other than as a dentist) and earn a living while pursuing registration requirements. Individuals have also been known to fly in from their country of origin to attend the assessments.

As the assessments are dispersed through the year, candidates often return home in-between to continue in their established dental practices. Candidates who are not successful in the NDEB Equivalency Process are still eligible to apply for admission to the advanced standing programs.

Other benefit includes the Equivalency Process takes less time and is less expensive than the two-year advanced standing programs.

To gain entry into both the Equivalency Process and the two-year programs (in Canada), candidates must submit an application to the NDEB. There is one entry point with the results of the assessments determining the pathway for candidates.

Because the universities use the results of the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge as part of their admissions process to the two-year programs, the questions are also founded in the minimum admissions requirements set by the universities. The universities had input into the Assessment of Fundamental Knowledge blueprint and determined what the appropriate passing score would best reflect the likelihood of being successful in the two-year programs.

Individuals scoring less than 75 were found to be inadequate. That is why the score was set at 75. Admission requirements into universities throughout the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland will vary and candidates need to contact those institutions directly.