A systemic gap curbs internationally trained dentists to practice in Canada amid shortage of dental care professionals.

Dentistry is one of the in High-Demand Occupations according to Canada’s Federal Skilled Worker Program that operates under the Express Entry system. However, only 10-15% of dentists currently practicing in Canada are graduated from foreign dental schools.

This is because of the complex licensure process that foreign trained dentist encounter as they arrive to Canada.

Starting from the tedious registration process followed by a set of complex examinations, most applicants find themselves beating a dead horse. “It is very expensive to immigrate, let alone going through the licensure exams,” said Ali.



Ali is ITD (Internationally Trained Dentist). He immigrated to Canada back in 2018.  While he was a practicing dentist back home, he had to go through the exhausting equivalency process to get licensed here. He had to work to keep up with living expenses which makes it challenging to dedicate time and resources to prepare for exams.

But this is not the only challenge, the process is unfairly complex. The exams are meant to test the dentist’s knowledge based on Canadian standards for practice. However, the exams are set way harder and the steps are more intensive than what new graduates from Canada with no experience have to go through.

According to the 2022-23 Report of the National Dental Examining Board, over 50 percent of applicants had passed the first exam from the first attempt and bout 75% passed the second exam. These seem to be promising figures. However, the third exam is the trap, where just 30% have passed.

Dentists who have been unable to secure permission to practice in Canada object on the fairness of exams difficulty. The president of the Internationally Trained Dentists Association of Canada, Luca Salvador, condemned the inequitable process, emphasizing its excessive length, costliness, and burdensome nature. He lamented that many individuals are subjected to a three-to-five-year ordeal, or even longer, to navigate through the equivalency process.

Salvador explained that while proving competency in Canada through additional exams is understandable, the specific assessments required and their stringent standards pose significant challenges. He stressed the difficulty of the assessments imposed on dentists from abroad.

Dentists from overseas are mandated to undergo an equivalency process facilitated by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB), a process that has been criticized for its complexity and the obstacles it presents to internationally trained professionals seeking to practice dentistry in Canada.

According to WorkBC, remote and rural areas in British Columbia are currently grappling with a scarcity of dentists.

Indigenous communities, in particular, are disproportionately affected, as most residents must travel outside their communities to access dental care, as noted by the First Nations Health Authority.

The shortage extends beyond remote areas to medium-sized communities like Powell River, which, despite having nearly 14,000 residents and four dental offices, still face challenges in accessing local dental services. Residents report resorting to traveling by ferry to neighboring communities for care after facing difficulties in securing appointments with local dentists.

This scarcity of dental professionals is anticipated to worsen over the next decade due to the province’s growing and aging population, coupled with the retirement of many baby boomer dentists. Currently, there are 1,550 job vacancies available for dentists in the province, while the 2016 census indicates that there are 3,500 dentists actively employed in British Columbia.

Canada is anticipated to face a significant shortage of dentists in the coming years, with projections indicating a deficit of thousands of professionals within the next eight years. This shortage is primarily attributed to the impending retirement of a substantial portion of the existing dental workforce. As seasoned dentists from the baby boomer generation reach retirement age, the gap between retiring practitioners and newly graduating dentists is expected to widen, exacerbating the shortage across the country.

This impending shortfall highlights the urgent need for proactive measures to address workforce planning, recruitment, and retention strategies within the dental profession to ensure continued access to essential oral health care services for Canadians.


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