A toolkit that every internationally trained dentist should have

Being a new dentist in today’s job market is not easy. Sky-high tuition loans, a tight labor market (including assistants and dental hygienists), being asked to perform hygiene in addition to clinical dentistry and having to pay high rents if you prefer to be in the city are just some of the concerns we experienced.

dr. Deshpande

Combine that with being an internationally trained dentist, looking and sounding different from most other graduates, needing a work visa sponsor, and worrying about your immigration status in this country.

That’s a lot to worry about as a new dentist!

I was stressed too, a few years ago, when I moved here from Dubai. And besides being stressed, I felt pretty lost. I had a few friends who were foreign-trained dentists (FTDs), but many of them already had green cards or were sponsored by their partners. Immigration is and has always been a lonely and fearful process. And while I love my alma mater, the fact is that most dental schools don’t confidently prepare us for the job market.

So, here’s a concise toolkit for any internationally trained dentist seeking an associateship, based on my experience:

1. Put VET on your resume that you are looking for a work visa sponsor. Be prepared that you will not hear as many employers as your domestic colleagues. That’s OK, the process will teach you a lot about grit.

2. Have an abundance mindset. Know that you WILL prevail and find the partnership that’s perfect for you. It’s a matter of time. Don’t grab the first opportunity that presents itself. Have multiple offers to choose from.

3. You must know your worth and be willing to stand up for yourself. You went to dental school in another country and then went through the competitive process of taking an advanced standing program in North America. You deserve to be well rewarded for your efforts. Ask a dentist-specific attorney what the average wage is for a new dentist in your area. Ask for a daily wage and a percentage of production.

4. Indeed and Craigslist aren’t the only areas to look to for jobs. Your network is your best choice in finding a good partnership. Contact your school’s alumni, introduce yourself to speakers who teach on ‘Lunch and Learns’ and connect with residents, teachers and specialists. Ask to take them out for coffee and learn more about their experience as a practicing dentist. You’d be surprised how many will respond when politely addressed. When the time is right, ask if they know of a dentist looking for a co-worker!

5. Send letters to general dentists in your area, introduce yourself and share your goals in the field of dentistry and hobbies outside of it. What do you want to achieve by collaborating with them? Why in that particular neighborhood? Create a small free website and put a link to it on the letter for more information.

6. Finally, build a strong support system of mentors and coaches. The feeling of trust you feel when someone takes care of your work is indescribable. Cherish these relationships. No one is obliged to help you just because you went to the same school, or because you are both internationally trained dentists. These relationships can take years to build. Be patient and stay persistent

my new book, persevering, is a complete guide to applications, schools, and employment opportunities for foreign-trained dentists in the United States. It is now available on Amazon.

dr. Sampada Deshpande, author of Persevering, is a general dentist based in San Francisco. Sampada, a foreign-trained dentist from Dubai, obtained a DDS from the University of Washington in 2018, where she also completed a LEND scholarship in 2021. She received the ADA 10 under 10 Award, AGD 10 to Watch honor and Howard Memorial Award. Outside of clinical dentistry, she enjoys hosting the New Dentist Business Club, cycling the city’s rolling hills and advocating innovation in technology through her work at Samsotech. You can reach her for speaking engagements by visiting her website www.sampadadeshpandedds.com

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