When it comes to license requirements or application to international or advanced standing programs for foreign trained dentists, NBDE is by far considered the common denominator and the first step in this long process.

As of now the NBDE exam consists of two parts and it’s administered by the ADA Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE). Part I of NBDE covers most aspects of the biomedical sciences while part II deals mostly with clinical dentistry issues.

NBDE Part I

It’s extremely important that you carefully read and review the NBDE Part I Candidate Guide, you can download a copy of the guide here . The fee for the NBDE exam is $265. The following eligibility requirements for taking the NBDE exam apply to international dental graduates or foreign trained dentists, these requirements were adapted from the NBDE candidate guide (2009):

1. You must submit an examination application and fee to:


The Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations
211 East Chicago Avenue, Suite 600
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2678

You can also use the online application, which is available here.

2. You must have your official dental school course transcripts verified by:
Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc.
P.O. Box 514070
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202-3470
414-289-3400 http://www.ece.org/
You must contact Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc. (ECE) and request an ECE application form. The ECE form will describe what educational credentials are required and how to submit them to ECE. Fees for ECE services will also be listed ($85 at the time this page is published). You should indicate that a General Report should be sent directly to the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations. It takes approximately four weeks for ECE to evaluate credentials.

3. Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc. will send the ECE General Evaluation Report directly to a) you and b) the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (if it was requested by you on the ECE application).

4. The Joint Commission will hold the NBDE examination application, but will not process it before the ECE Evaluation Report is received. The ECE report must be received in the Joint Commission office by the application deadline.

5. Your name on the ECE report must match the name on the application. Any name changes must be accompanied by legal documentation.There are other important information listed in the NBDE guide, again you should familiarize yourself with this guide and read it a couple of times.

Most schools require foreign trained dentists to take NBDE part I and they do assign a certain weight in their acceptance decision on your score on that exam, some may also require part II.

The NBDE exam is administered only at Prometric test centers in the US and Canada, once you register you will receive information directing you on how to register for a certain date. At one point in time (when I took the test), the test was paper-based only, gosh, I feel so old!

According to the official candidate guide, the NBDE could take up to 7 hours, divided into 3.5 hours segments, 200 questions each, with an optional one hour break.

Part II

Again, your first step is to become familiar with everything listed in the NBDE Part II Candidate Guide which you can download here. The examination fee for part II is $345. You do not need a newECE report if you have already taken care of this during Part I.

Part II is also computer-based, administered in Prometric, you can submit a paper application, or register online here . Many other regulations and procedures are similar to Part I. The only difference is the scope of the exam, NBDE Part II tackles the different dental specialties, patient management, and pharmacology.

The exam is administered in two days, day one consists of two 3.5 hours segments, 200 questions each, of discipline-based questions. Day two consists of 100 case-based questions. You will be given several cases with 10-15 questions each.

Preparation for the NBDE Exam:

Obviously, a strong and solid background is needed before you tackle any of these exams, being a foreign trained dentist gives you at least a theoretical advantage because chances are that you are familiar with at least some of the subject covered in the NBDE exam, that should be derived from your text books and lecture notes, but you may want to also supplement your preparation efforts with other educational aids, I’ve used some of the following, but not all, so I can’t attest to how effective they are, but I know that the following teaching aids are being used by many foreign trained dentists and other international students in lots of different ways:

– Released national board dental exams from previous years, can be a great resource, the more recent, the better, they can serve to familiarize you with the format of the exam, and you can use them to test yourself and your preparation, don’t count too much on seeing the same questions though in your exam. You can purchase those directly from the American Student Dental Association. I encourage you to become a member of ASDA, foreign-trained dentists or international dental graduates who are not yet enrolled in a US dental school can join at the associate level, the dues are $53 and you get decent discounts on reprints of the released NBDE exams.

– First Aid for the NBDE Part I and First Aid for the NBDE Part II are both useful guides published by McGraw-Hill , with lots of good reviews, written by students who aced the National Dental Board Exams and reviewed by top dental school faculty and practitioners, include hundreds of high-yield facts and mnemonics to maximize study time, and test-taking strategies and advice.

– Mosby’s Review for the NBDE Part I
Are you sure you’re ready for the NBDE? You will be with this ultimate review resource! Providing the most up-to-date information on each of the basic sciences addressed in Part I of the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE).

– Mosby’s Review for the NBDE Part IIGet all the review and testing practice you need to pass the NBDE Part II! Providing the most up-to-date information on the biomedical and dental sciences addressed in Part II of the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE)

– Kaplan also publishes a review guide that is available for Part I only: dentEssentials: High-Yield NBDE Part I Review (Kaplan Dentessentials)

– Kaplan provides several resources to prepare for the NBDE exam, they offer prep courses for both parts at their centers, those could be expensive, but may work well for you if you need a strong classroom-like refresher of your information. They also offer online programs which are basically question-banks with or without lecture notes. They vary in prices depending on how long you will use the service, more like a subscription-based system.

– The Student Doctor Network Forums provide a wealth of information about the NBDE and other issues relevant to foreign trained dentists or international dental graduates

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