Dentists or dental students who’ve been educated outside the U.S. or Canada can save time and money on earning their U.S. dentist licenses by enrolling in an international dentist program.
As the most recent ADA education statistics show, these programs are quite popular. In 2019-2020, 5.2% of all first-year U.S. dental school students were international students. And these students represented an even higher 6.6% of all graduates.
Despite their condensed lengths, international dental programs can still be expensive. And non-resident students often have fewer U.S. funding options. Learn more about the average international dentist program cost and the best funding options for students.
How international dentist programs work
Have you already spent time as a licensed and practicing dentist overseas? If so, you shouldn’t have to start your dental training back at ground zero in the United States. And that’s the main reason why international dental programs exist.
The typical dental school program lasts four years. But most international dentist programs can be completed in half that amount of time. That means international students could skip out on two years of tuition and fees. Plus, they’ll enter the workforce two years sooner.
Currently, 38 schools offer an advanced standing (AS) or international dentist program (IDP). That’s more than half of the 68 accredited dental schools located in the United States. See the full list of AS/IDP programs.
How to apply with advanced standing and IDP programs
Many AS and IDP programs participate in the ADEA Centralized Application for Advanced Placement for International Dentists (CAAPID). By using the ADEA CAAPID application process, international students can avoid having to apply directly with each DDS or DMD program.
In addition to submitting a CAAPID application, you’ll typically need to pass the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) to be considered for admission. Some schools will require completion of both parts of the exam, while others may only need Part I.
Next, most advanced standing programs will require applicants to complete the internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Often, programs may require a minimum score of 100. Other common programs requirements include:
- At least two letters of evaluation
- Application fee
- Resume submission
- International dental school transcripts
Once you’re accepted to a school, it should issue you a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility. You’ll need to present this form when you apply for a student visa at your country’s U.S. consulate or embassy.
To learn more about the path to U.S. licensing, check out the list of Resources for Advanced Standing or IDP students compiled by the American Student Dental Association (ASDA).
Average international dentist program cost
You might expect that foreign DMD or DDS program students would, on average, have a lower cost of attendance than the overall dental student population. After all, their required course curriculum is often two years shorter.
But it’s important to point out that international students won’t qualify for resident rates. According to the ADA, the average first-year, non-resident dental school student in 2019-20 paid $72,219 in tuition and mandatory fees compared to $55,395 for residents.
That’s nearly a $17,000 difference.
And resident students who choose public dental school programs can save even more. The average first-year cost for these students in 2019-2020 was $41,711 compared to the $75,161 average cost for private dental school students. Unfortunately, international students again won’t qualify for these lower resident rates.
So the average international dentist program costs $144,438 in tuition and fees alone. And paying for dental school at private universities is a tad more expensive at $150,332 per year. But, to reduce cost, international students can limit their choices to the most affordable dental schools.
How to pay for an international dentist program
Self-funding a six-figure education won’t be workable for many international dental students. Yet non-U.S. citizens typically won’t qualify for government-funded student aid programs either.
So what can you do? Here are your best options for covering the cost of your international dentist program.
Scholarships and grants
Funding, in the form of scholarships and grants, is always the first place students should look to pay for an education. These funds are superior because they don’t have to be paid back at all.
You can use scholarship search websites to search thousands of scholarships at once. Many of those scholarships might be specifically designed for foreign students. Popular grants for international students include the Fulbright Foreign Student Program and the AAUW International Fellowships.
Even if you don’t qualify for federal grants or loans, you might still need to submit the FAFSA as it could be an admissions criteria at some schools. Plus, it might help you qualify for school-specific aid. Although you can’t submit the FAFSA online without a Social Security number, you can mail a physical copy.
Federal international dental school loans
Unfortunately, most foreign students aren’t eligible for federal Direct student loans. But there are a few exceptions. For example, if you’re a permanent resident (i.e. you have a green card), you are eligible for federal aid.
Here are a few more non-U.S. citizens who qualify for federal student aid:
- U.S. nationals (American Samoa or Swains Island natives)
- Those with certain I-94 records (Refugee, Asylum Granted, Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Conditional Entrant, or Parolee)
- T status nonimmigrants or those with parents holding a T-1 nonimmigrant status
- Battered immigrant-qualified aliens or those with parents designated as such
- Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau
Undocumented students, including those protected by DACA, don’t qualify for federal financial aid.
Private international dental school loans
If you’re not eligible for federal financial aid, private student loans might be your main source of funding after scholarships and grants.
Many private lenders today will consider applications from international students. But, in most cases, the student will also need a creditworthy cosigner who’s a U.S citizen or permanent resident. See our favorite private student loan lenders.
Applying with a cosigner may be the easiest path to private student loans. But it might also be impossible for foreign students who don’t have friends or family that live in the United States. There are a few lenders, though, that offer loans to non-U.S. citizens without requiring cosigners or collateral.
With these international student loan lenders, approval decisions and interest rates are based on the future earnings potential of the student rather than traditional credit-based methods. Prominent lenders in this space include Ascent, Prodigy, MPower Financing, and Stilt.
Get a plan for your international dentist program debt
Dental school students are known for accumulating a lot of dentistry student debt. According to the latest American Dental Education Association (ADEA) data, Class of 2019 graduates had an average student debt load of $292,169. And private school graduates finished in even worse shape with an average educational debt of $321,184.
Even when enrolled in shorter international dentist programs, advanced standing students could easily end up with student debt totals north of $150,000. Plus, all of that debt might be in private student loans, which have fewer borrower protections and often charge higher rates.
After you’ve graduated and begun your dental practice, you might want to consider refinancing your student loans to a lower rate.
Want a full breakdown of all your repayment options for your international dental school loans? Book a consultation with a Student Loan Planner® advisor.