Blog > The Ultimate Guide for US dental interview questions (2020)

The Ultimate Guide for US dental interview questions (2020)

Sep 29 2019
Karthik Vinayagamoorthi
DDS Admission , DDS Guide

Table of Contents

This is the ultimate interview guide for International dentists applying to the US Advanced Standing Program through ADEA – CAAPID. This comprehensive guide gives you everything you need to start preparing for your dental interviews, specifically for applicants of the DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery), GPR (General Practice Residency), and Fellowship programs in America.

Let us first list out what you can expect in this article. The short index would help you navigate the article’s different sections every time you refer to it for your interview preparation.

Brief Index: Article Sections

  1. Section 1 – Types of interview questions
  2. Section 2 – Model/Sample questions collated from dental interview applicants
  3. Section 3 – Description of each question category
  4. Section 4 – More resources for Dental Interview preparation

Section 1 - Question categories

A typical dental interview has only 5 types of questions -  

  • Behavioral - ‘Fit’ based and ‘Critical Thinking’ questions
  • Clinical – ‘Ethical scenarios’ and ‘Treatment planning’ questions
  • Mandatory – ‘Ice-breaker’ and ‘Tell me about yourself.
  • Profile-based – ‘Gaps in work experience, ‘low scores or test-attempts.’
  • Stunner – ‘Curveball’ or ‘Contradictions’

Section 2 - Sample questions

We surveyed 27 US dental aspirants who attended dental interviews at top schools like SIU, CU, UCSF, UCLA, UoP, UIC, BU, Buffalo, and NYU. We then tried to combine questions that either had a similar flavor or similar answer (Example - Tell me about a time you failed? and What is a time you aspired for something but didn't get it?). Finally, we compiled the most collectively exhaustive yet mutually exclusive list of questions you would require to nail in your interviews. Here is the list of all such questions, categorized by interviewer expectations.

1.a. Sample behavioral dental interview questions – Fit based:

  • Why do you wish to study at our school?
  • How did you adapt to moving from your home country to the US Dental office?
  • Can you tell me a bit about your past dental school?
  • Which book/person/incident inspired you?
  • Share with us a challenging situation you faced and how you overcame it?
  • What are your strengths? How do you sustain it?
  • What are your weaknesses? How do you plan to overcome it?
  • Can you tell us about an incident that showcases your leadership skills?
  • Tell us about a time when you worked as a team.
  • Tell us about a time you failed.
  • How would a friend describe you?
  • How will you manage the pressure in the DDS program?

1.b. Sample behavioral questions at dental interview – Critical Thinking:

  • If you were a tree, what tree would you be? What’s your spirit animal?
  • Would you choose to be unique and hated or ordinary and loved?
  • What do you think about atheism?
  • Does empathy matter, or does sympathy matter?
  • How were you to decide between being assertive and authoritative?
  • What is the biggest problem affecting modern dentistry?
  • When is the right time to give up?
  • If your life partner opposed your goal to be a dentist, what would you do?
  • What kind of person do you dislike?

2.a. Sample clinical questions that involve ethical scenarios in dental interviews:

  • If a patient’s insurance won’t allow a certain treatment plan that you believe is best given the situation, what would you do?
  • If a patient comes inebriated to your office, how will you handle her?
  • If you find your best friend indulging in malpractice and breaking the honor code of conduct, what will you do?
  • What will you do if a friend drops a mouth mirror on the floor, picks it back up, and uses it without sterilization?
  • Have you encountered any ethical dilemmas?
  • Can you describe an ethical scenario Outside of healthcare?
  • What’s the difference between empathy and sympathy?
  • A patient requests the replacement of a perfect amalgam filling because another dentist advised that it is toxic. He asks you for advice. How would you proceed?
  • Patient reports for the first time. You see badly done restorations. How will you approach this case?
  • There is a soccer match on Tuesday night and a cricket match on Thursday. As the class representative, you must decide to schedule an exam on either Wednesday or Friday. Which day would you choose?
  • A friend wants to drop out of dental school because of excessive pressure. How will you help this situation?

2.b. Sample clinical questions that involve treatment planning in dental interviews:

 Treatment planning questions are subject to the case ppt or radiograph you are presented.

  • What anomaly do you observe in this radiograph?
  • How would you treat this case?
  • What are your systemic concerns for this patient?
  • Can you describe ICDAS?
  • What is your treatment philosophy?
  • Specific case-based questions and questions on treatment planning

3. Sample mandatory questions that are asked in DDS interviews:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • How was your day? Did you look around the city? Was your travel comfortable? [Ice breaker questions]

4. Sample 'curve-ball' or stunner questions during ADEA CAAPID's top school interviews:

  • Is dentistry a privilege or a right?
  • How would you convince me to do something I don’t want to do?
  • Do you think it's fair that some dentists have the 'green-card advantage while applying to dental schools?
  • What would you with a magic wand? If you had the power to change something in the world, what would that be?
  • What do you hate about dentistry? What can our school improve?
  • What is one reason we should NOT choose you?

Work experience based interview questions

Work experience based interview questions

5.a. Sample profile base questions that international dentists face in interviews:

  • What key differences have you observed between the dental practices of the US and your home country?
  • What key lessons did you learn while you practiced in your home country?
  • Why did you volunteer at ‘this’ particular organization for community service?
  • Do you have experience going on mission trips?
  • How would you rate your clinical skills on a scale of 1-10?
  • Describe your past dental school experience for us? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
  • Who are the other authors in this published article?
  • Why did you choose to pursue these particular research topics? What part did you play on the research team?
  • How do you think your research experience contributed to your clinical practice? Do you wish to continue research during your DDS program?
  • What do you hope to gain from a US dental education?

5.b. Sample profile based questions that are critiquing your ‘pitfalls’:

  • Why is there a gap in your work experience?
  • Why is your GPA low?
  • Why did you fail in previous attempts of NBDE (National Board of Dental Examination)?
  • What does attempts TOEFL tell us about your communication skills? Why didn’t you reapply to improve your score?
  • Have you applied to dental school before this? Which other schools have you applied to?
  • Why did you NOT pursue a master's degree?
  • Why did you do a master’s degree? Why did you do an MPH (Masters in Public Health) or MHA (Masters in Health Administration)?
  • Have you done any preceptorships? Why did you do that?

Section 3 - Category Descriptions:

In this section, let's break down and understand each dental interview question category. We will describe what the interviewers' expectations are common to all questions within a category. You will also find links to other articles that provide answering strategies and frameworks to help you succeed - 

1. What do interviewers expect when they ask behavioral interview questions?

Before we start describing what behavioral questions aim to test, let us understand what they are not testing. They are not testing your communication skills, your sense of judgment, your background, your credentials, or even quite literally your behavior in isolation. While these are necessary elements to compose your answer, they don't satisfy these questions' intention.

Confusing right! Well, don’t worry. We can quickly grasp their purpose by using just one word – ‘fit’.

What is fit? Oxford Merriam dictionary describes it as ‘acceptable from a particular viewpoint’. That is pretty apt. So, what is the interviewers' particular viewpoint we are trying to uncover?

Simple. The admissions committee wants to choose a candidate who will succeed in their program in the near term. Who do you think can succeed in these dental programs? Think about the characteristic traits someone needs to exhibit as a showcase of future potential. You are expected to describe evidence that is a testament to the characteristics required to succeed when answering behavioral questions.

For example, international dentists who enter the DDS classroom are expected to merge with US dental students in the 4th year of their training. In a very short time, one has to learn about the US work culture, unlearn then relearn the local treatment protocol and patient interaction standards. On average, a foreign dental candidate is more experienced compared to a local student on the program, thereby accepted with an expectation to leverage their clinical experience and enrich classroom discussions. In essence, you are proving your 'fit' to be able to onboard, adapt, and manage the expectations outlined in your program through your behavioral answers.

Section 4 - More resources for Dental Interview Preparation

Check out our YouTube Channel for videos on Dental Interviews and all other aspects of the CAAPID application process. 

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