Dentistry in USA: Top Colleges, Cost, Eligibility, Scholarships, Scope

    Dentistry in USA is offered as a 4-year Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) degree. Both of them have the same curriculum and are equivalent to Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) in India. However, unlike India, dental schools in USA accept only those students in DDS or DMD who have a 4-year bachelors from US or Canada institutes. 

    Average annual tuition fees for dentistry in USA ranges between 11,400 USD to 84,630 USD, equivalent to 84.3 lakhs - 62.6 lakhs INR. The cost of pursuing bachelors gets added to these tuition fees for study abroad aspirants. It is somewhere around 15,000 USD to 60,000 USD per annum, depending on the university and the program. Nevertheless the salary for dentists in USA is also very lucrative and is approximately 238,000 USD (1.75 crore INR) per annum.

    BDS students from India interested in practicing as a dentist in USA can also apply for a 2-year Advanced Standing Doctor of Dentistry program. It is offered by over 30 universities in this country. Other than that, bachelors and masters degree in dentistry are also offered by some US universities. Graduates of such programs cannot practise as a dentist but work under them as assistant, hygienist, technician, etc.

    Top Universities for Dentistry in USA

    10 universities of the USA ranking in top 50 among dental institutes across the world, as per QS Rank 2020, offer DDS or DMD degrees to international students. They are list as follows along with their fees:

    QS Ranking 2020 University Annual Fees (in USD)
    5 Harvard University 64,984
    9 University of California San Francisco 11,442
    14 New York University 53,610
    18 University of North Carolina Chapel Hill 67,162
    22 University of Pennsylvania 77,612
    27 University of California Los Angeles 19,070
    35 Columbia University 84,630
    37 University of Minnesota Twin Cities 73,246
    49 University of Iowa 69,728
    49 University of Southern California 32,575

    Apart from that, more than 30 universities of the USA also offer an Advanced Standing Doctor of Dentistry program for Indian students already having a BDS degree. The duration of the program is 2 years and it is specifically for those who studied dentistry in their home country but wanted to practice in the USA. Its tuition fees are the same as DDS/DMD degrees. Some universities that offer such programs are:

    Other programs related to dentistry in USA are also available such as Bachelors in Dental Hygiene. They are 3 to 4 years full-time undergraduate courses and prepare students to serve as an assistant to a dentist. Basic eligibility is having 80% marks in class 12 with science subjects.

    Following are some of the universities offering Bachelors in Dental Hygiene in USA:

    University Fees per annum (in USD)
    New York University 26,102
    University of Southern California 28,628
    University of Minnesota 31,616
    Purdue University 48,747
    Texas A & M University 39,648

    Why Study Dentistry in USA?

    Academic excellence and lucrative career opportunities are two of the major reasons why study aspirants come to study dentistry in USA. Some facts supporting this statement are elaborated as follows:

    • 12 universities of USA rank among top 50 dental schools in the world whereas their number is limited to only 7 and 2 from the UK and Canada respectively, as per QS Rank for Dentistry 2020.
    • Job growth for Dentists in USA is quite slow ie. 3% (2019 - 29) as compared to other healthcare sectors but they earn 64% more than health and medical professionals.
    • Annual increment for Dentists in this country is 12% every 17 months whereas the national average is only 8%.

    Pathway for Dentistry in USA

    Pathway to Dentistry is very similar to MBBS in USA. International students are required to have a bachelor's degree with certain pre-requisite subjects to apply for Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD). Following is the step by step guide on how to become a dentist in USA:

    Step 1: 4-years bachelors degree from USA or Canadian university

    Majority of the universities of the USA offering DDS or DMS accepts only those international students who have a 4-year bachelor's degree from an institute in Canada or USA. Some universities also accept a 3-year bachelor's degree graduate to dentistry in USA. Following are the subjects that should be included in the curriculum:

    • Biology
    • Physics
    • General Chemistry
    • Organic Chemistry

    Step 2: Take DAT test

    Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a compulsory requirement for studying in the USA. It is a computerized test and has three sections: academic ability, scientific information and perceptual ability. Students should take DAT at least a year before applying to a dental college in the USA.

    Step 3: 4-year DDS or DMD degree

    This degree is accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation. First two years emphasize classroom and laboratory studies whereas the last two years are focused on clinical practise.

    Step 4: Get License for Dental Practise

    Students are required to appear for a 2-part written known as National Board Dental Examination to practise legally as a dentist after completing dentistry in USA. Also, every state conducts a practical examination individually too before granting permission to operate in its jurisdiction. This may include first-aid, CPR certification, background check and/or an interview.

    Admission Process for Dentistry in USA

    Universities of the USA accept applicants with bachelors from all backgrounds to DDS/DMD considering they studied the pre-requisite courses. The detailed admission process is discussed further in this section.

    How to Apply for Dentistry in USA

    • International students can apply to US universities through the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), available at
    • The processing fee is 80 USD.
    • The deadline to pay application fees is February 1.

    Admission Requirements for Dentistry in USA

    • 4-year bachelor's degree from US or Canadian college with minimum 80% and pre-requisite subjects
    • DAT test score
    • Proof of assisting or working under a dentist, also known as dental shadowing
    • Letter of recommendation from dentist, professor or a community
    • Statement of Purpose
    • Interview

    Requirements for top universities of the USA offering dentistry degree are tabulated as follows:

    University DAT Score Admission Requirements
    Harvard University No minimum score 1 academic LOR;
    DAT test score: no minimum requirement;
    University of California San Francisco 22 in academic and science (average) Answer to supplemental questions;
    3 LORs: 1 from professor, dentist supervisor, any individual of applicant’s choice
    New York University 21 in academic, science & reading;
    20 in perceptual ability
    1 community LOR or 3 individual LOR (2 from science professors);
    100 hours of dental shadowing
    University of North Carolina Chapel Hill No minimum requirement Interview
    University of Pennsylvania Academic: 22.2; PAT: 21;
    Reading Comprehension: 22.6;
    Science: 21.8
    (average for class of 2019)
    2 academic LORs;
    Supplemental application
    University of California Los Angeles 20 (average) 4 professional or academic LORs;
    Columbia University 23.4 (average) 3 LORs: from professor, pre-health committee, employer or non-science professor
    University of Minnesota Twin Cities Academic: 20.86;
    Reading Comprehension: 22.10;
    PAT: 21.18;
    Science: 20.36 (average)
    3 LORs: 2 from science or maths faculty, 1 from supervisor;
    50 hours of dental shadowing;
    Personal Statement; Interview
    University of Iowa Academic: 20.5;
    PAT: 21 (average)
    3 LORs;
    Dental Shadowing Interview
    University of Southern California 18 (minimum) 3 LORs: 2 from professors, 1 from dentist

    English Proficiency Requirement for International Students

    Since international students applying for dentistry in USA are graduates from the US or Canada, they do not need to submit English proficiency test scores. However, foreign dental graduates applying for Advanced Standing Doctor of Dentistry are required to prove proficiency in English language by submitting IELTS or TOEFL test scores. Minimum requirement is:

    • IELTS: 7.0
    • TOEFL (iBT): 100

    Cost of Studying Dentistry in USA

    The expenses for studying dentistry in USA is quite hefty as international students also have to pay for the bachelor’s tuition fees. According to American Dental Education Association (ADEA), average educational debt for the dental school graduates of Class 2019 was 292,169 USD. Total cost of study for an international student can be categorized as pre-arrival cost, tuition fees, and cost of living.

    Pre-arrival Cost

    The costs that are incurred before arrival to the study destination such as registration fees of tests required to study in USA, visa fees, application fees, etc are known as pre-arrival cost.

    Types of Expenses Cost (in USD)
    Application Fees 80
    DAT Fees 225
    F-1 Visa Fees 170
    SEVIS 200
    Flight-fare (one way) 700
    TOEFL Fees 170

    Dentistry in USA: Tuition Fees for Indian Students

    Bachelors degree from a USA university cost around 11.14 lakhs to 44.6 lakhs per annum. It is a compulsory requirement to apply for DDS or DMD. Annual cost of top universities offering dentistry in USA in INR as per conversion rate on November 4, 2020 are tabulated as follows:

    University Annual Fees (in INR)
    Harvard University 48.2 lakhs
    University of California San Francisco 85 lakhs
    New York University 40 lakhs
    University of North Carolina Chapel Hill 50 lakhs
    University of Pennsylvania 57.6 lakhs
    University of California Los Angeles 14.2 lakhs
    Columbia University 62.9 lakhs
    University of Minnesota Twin Cities 54.4 lakhs
    University of Iowa 51.8 lakhs
    University of Southern California 24.08 lakhs

    Cost of Living in USA

    It has been estimated that the average cost of living in the USA for an international student is approximately 15,000 USD per annum. It can be further bifurcated into following categories:

    Type of Expense Annual Cost (in USD)
    Accommodation 9600 - 14000
    Health Insurance 2000
    Travelling 1440 - 3000
    Groceries 3000
    Other Utilities like Electricity, Entertainment, etc 6000

    Scholarships for Dentistry in US

    USA is costlier to study with other countries like Canada and Australia. The fees of medical schools is higher as compared to other courses. However, various scholarships are available for international students in USA to reduce this burden of expenses.

    Mentioned are the top scholarships for dentistry in USA to support international students’s education financially: .

    Scholarship Amount (in USD)
    ADA Foundation Dental Student Scholarship 10,000 (10 students), 5,000 (5), 500 – 2,500 (20)
    ADEA/Crest Oral-B Scholarship for Dental Students Pursuing Academic Careers 5,500
    Dental Trade Alliance Foundation Scholarships 5,000 (variable awards)
    Kool Smiles Scholarship 5,000
    ADEA/GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Preventive Dentistry Scholarship 2,500

    Further, scholarships for dentistry in USA are offered for predental students too. Pre Dental course is not a substitute for undergraduate courses. Instead, they finish concurrently with the degree.

    Mentioned are the top scholarships in the USA offered to the predental students.

    Scholarship Name Value
    Barry Goldwater Scholarship Up to 7,500 for sophomores in their junior and senior years
    Kool Smiles Scholarship 5,000
    HOSA – Future Health Professionals Scholarship 1,000 to 2,000
    Crack the DAT Pre Dental Scholarship Up to 1,000

    Scope after Dentistry in USA

    There are two routes for DDS or DMS graduates from the USA: continue clinical practise or apply for residency programs. Latter one is for those who are interested in getting a dentistry specialization like oral and maxillofacial pathology, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, dental public health, and pediatric dentistry. Currently, nine such specialities are recognized by the ADA's Council on Dental Education and Licensure.

    Most of the graduates of dentistry in USA who choose to continue clinical practise start by working as an associate under a senior dentist. After getting significant hands on experience, they start their own clinic. At entry-level, a dentist in the USA on an average can earn a pay grade of 117,000 USD which increases upto 372,000 USD with experience.

    Following are the popular job roles in USA for graduates having a degree in dentistry:

    Job Role Average Annual Salary (in USD)
    Endodontist 284,000
    Orthodontist 279,000
    Periodontist 257,000
    Prosthodontist 284,000
    Dentist (General) 238,000

    Graduates who pursue Bachelors in Dentistry in USA universities can work as an assistant at dental clinics and earn an average salary of 145,000 USD per annum. Popular job roles available for them are as follows:

    Job Role Average Annual Salary (in USD)
    Dental Assistant 65,300
    Dental Hygienist 57,300
    Dental Laboratory Technician 59,500
    Dental Receptionist 51,100
    Dental Technician 59,100
    Dental Therapist 92,300

    Studying dentistry in USA requires a lot of dedication, time and expenses. Hence, students should opt for this course only if they are deeply motivated towards pursuing a career in medicine.


    Ques. Is BDS recognized in the USA?

    Ans. No, BDS is not recognized in the USA. Indian students having a BDS degree are required to pursue a 2-year advanced standing dental program and then pass licensure tests to practise in the USA.

    Ques. How do I become a dentist in the USA?

    Ans. You are required to follow the given below steps to become a dentist in USA:

    • Get a 4-year bachelor's degree from USA or Canada
    • Pass DAT test
    • Enroll and complete DDS/DMD degree
    • Pass nationally recognized NBDE test
    • Pass state-level dental licensure tests

    Ques. Which is the number 1 dental school in USA?

    Ans. Harvard University has the number 1 dental school in the USA. Other top ranking institutes offering dentistry are UC San Diego, New York University, UCLA, etc.

    Ques. How much does a dentist make in the USA?

    Ans. The average salary of a dentist in USA is 238,000 USD per annum. At entry level, he/she can earn upto 117,000 USD.

    Ques. Which is better: DDS or BDS?

    Ans. DDS is equivalent to BDS in the USA. Thus, both have the same value and it depends on where you want to pursue your dental practise. In the USA, BDS is not recognized. So, you must have a DDS degree whereas in India, you can become a dentist with a BDS degree.

    Ques. What is the highest degree in dentistry in USA?

    Ans. The highest degree in dentistry in USA is residency program where students earn a specialization in a particular field. Some popular ones are oral and maxillofacial pathology, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, dental public health, and pediatric dentistry.