U of A dentistry grads shine with strong showing in national exam results

School of Dentistry students have scored significantly higher than Canadian averages on certification exam over the past five years

Jon Pullin - 16 November 2022

University of Alberta dentistry graduates had another strong showing this year on the National Dental Examining Board’s (NDEB) assessment exams, adding to what has been a consistent trend over the last five years.

Through standardized examinations, the NDEB assesses and grants approval for dentists to practise in Canada. Each year, around 550 students from 10 dental schools in Canada graduate and are put through the NDEB’s certification process.

The exam takes two days to write, with both a written and a clinically-based component.

This year, U of A students scored significantly higher than the 2022 Canadian average on both parts of the exam.

Steve Patterson, professor and associate chair in the School of Dentistry, says the results demonstrate both the resilience of students and the excellence of teaching staff at the School of Dentistry.

“This exam is one way to measure how we’re meeting expectations for shaping competent dentists,” says Patterson.

“It measures our students’ understanding and ability to apply what they know. It’s a good measure of where we stand as a Canadian dental school.”

Despite the challenges of learning during the pandemic, U of A dentistry students succeeded in maintaining high academic standings.

“It’s a credit to everyone at our school that we were able to adapt and continue with excellent educational and clinical experiences,” says Patterson. “Maintaining distance with the amount of space we had and changing schedules on the fly were all challenges to overcome. Dealing with not being together in the classroom. It’s a credit to this graduating class.”

“I think it also reflects the collegiality and alignment between faculty, staff and students in our goal, which is to train and graduate very competent dentists.”

Patterson has led the change to a new curriculum in the doctor of dental surgery (DDS) program, which has been implemented over the past three years. Now, the final year of the new program is in place.

“A number of the curriculum changes that we made did have some impact. For example, students are now receiving clinical training much earlier in the program,” says Patterson. “This graduating class also benefited from having younger students assist them in the clinic with patient care, which is a credit to professor Anthea Senior, who ensured this process has succeeded.”

Patterson says the exam results reflect the quality and the nature of the educational experience here at the U of A. 

“We feel we have a great program to offer people. Dentistry is a wonderful career, both with opportunities for practitioners and also with opportunities to make an impact as a health professional,” says Patterson.

“We've made efforts over these last few years with our new curriculum development to really produce an experience for our students that supports their learning, supports them as individuals, creates an environment to develop professionalism and all the skills needed to be excellent practitioners. We want potential students to know that the U of A School of Dentistry is a top choice in Canada.”