To the Land Down Under

Dr. Neha Ohri shares her experience of clearing Australia’s equivalence exams and working as a dentist in Australia

Tell us about your background and education

I was born and brought up in Mumbai. I have done my schooling from Atomic Energy Central School, Anushakti Nagar, Mumbai and completed my BDS from PMNM Dental College and Hospital, Bagalkot, Karnataka in 2013.

Tell us about your life after BDS

After completion of BDS, I applied for 6 months observership in BARC (Bhabha Atomic Research Center) Hospital in Mumbai. Soon there was an opening for the medical officer in dental in the same hospital. After clearing the interview, I joined the same hospital. It was a dream job for a beginner like me. I was really happy and satisfied with my job and worked there for one and a half years.

At the BARC Hospital, Mumbai

By mid-2015, I married my senior who had already qualified the Australian Dental Council (ADC) examination after his MDS and wished to practice dentistry in Australia. To start with the process of moving to Australia, I gave my IELTS exams in India (valid for 2 years). In 2016, I shifted to Australia and decided to prepare for equivalency exams.

Tell us a bit about the Visa process

I applied for a dependent visa. Visa details can be easily found on the website of Australia’s Department of Home Affairs. I applied for my resident visa online.

The norms for the visa change every year and I recommend looking up the website frequently if one is planning to pursue a career as a dentist in Australia.

Finishing the ADC examination only allows one to register with the Dental Board of Australia (DBA), and does not allow one to migrate or work in Australia. One must secure a valid visa to migrate and work in the country. Professionals may also choose to apply for a Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa.

Dental professionals can now appear for theory exams at several Indian cities. However, they must travel to Melbourne, Australia for the practical exams.

What are the exams that you had to clear?

ADC examinations include 4-part theory exams, followed by a practical examination. It took me one year to apply for the practical exams after clearing my theory exams due to a long waiting list. These days, the waiting time has reduced and students can apply 6-9 months after clearing the theory exams. One can attempt the practical exams up to 3 years after passing the theory exams.

In addition to that, a minimum IELTS score of 7 is essential to finish the student’s registration with the DBA. In my case, by the time I qualified my ADC examinations, my IELTS was no more valid. So, I appeared for OET (Occupational English Test) which is an English language proficiency test for healthcare professionals.

How much time did you take to clear all the exams?

It took me about 1.5-2 years to finish the process. After shifting to Australia in 2016, I appeared for my theory exams after 5 months of preparation. I gave my practical examinations in 2017. I then applied for a license. DBA takes ~4-5 weeks for assessing and approving the application.

I applied for jobs in various portals and it took ~2 months for me to find a job. In August 2017 I joined a group practice in Brisbane, Australia. 

What are the materials that you referred to during your preparations?

The ADC website has a handbook for general dentistry, which details the books and materials one needs to refer. As per current recommendation, a major portion of written exams is scenario-based multiple-choice questions (MCQs). The theory exam is spread over 2 days, with 4 parts of 80 MCQs each, to be solved in 2 hours. An aspirant securing grade C and above in all 4 papers is considered passed.

I started my preparation with a question bank comprising of 1000 multiple-choice questions and various dental literature from standard textbooks which were part of our BDS curriculum, mostly from the third and fourth year. There are various Facebook groups where previously-asked MCQs are discussed and subject-related queries are resolved.

How did you prepare for the practical exam?

Preparing for practical exam was the most tiring and frustrating part of the process. It is the toughest portion to qualify, as the quality of work is expected to be at par with international standards. For example, even if your crown preparation is 0.1 mm less than the ideal, then your grades reduce from ‘ideal’ to ‘satisfactory.’

Before starting up the preparation, I went through the website citing the requirements for the practical exams and exchanged emails with them when I had queries. It is a two-day examination, with a ‘clinical skills’ day and a ‘technical skills’ day.

I created a pre-clinical setup in my house, with compressor, typodonts, extracted teeth, airotors, restoratives materials, etc. I ordered some of the materials from India (NAVADHA enterprises, Mumbai) and bought the rest from Australia. I went through lot of relevant videos available online and used to practice diligently from 8 am-5 pm at my house in Australia every single day for five months using a mounted manikins and jaws. I also used to observe dentists in nearby clinics. Over time, I started using Carl Zeiss dental surgical loupes and loupe-mounted headlights to advance my skills further and get precision at the microscopic level. By the end of the five months, I had practiced on more than 100 extracted teeth.

Some of the aspirants in back home in India had joined an academy in Chandigarh (Overseas dental achievers) which also prepares aspirants for the practical exams.

How much did you spend in the process?

I spent ~INR 8 lakhs, including fees of the qualifying examinations and registration, and cost of materials to prepare for the practical examinations.

ExpensesCost in AUD
Initial assessment of application610
Theory examination2000
Practical examination4500
IELTS examination340
Registration with DBA647
Stay100-500 per week
Food30-50 per day
(1 AUD=INR 46-53)

How does an average day in the life of Neha look like?

I am working in a clinic called Sandstone Point Dental from past 2 years. I work 4 days a week. On a working day, I wake up at about 5:30 am. I go to my employer’s clinic between 8 am to 5 pm, and then to the gym, tennis, or for other activities, before having dinner.

What is unique about practicing dentistry in Australia?

The standard of care that we provide to patients here is very high, with special attention given to patients’ comfort. Use of advanced technologies, such as intra-oral scanners, CBCT scans, and CEREC chair-side indirect restoration milling is common. Patients are meticulously explained about the procedures, and adequate time is spent in clarifying their queries and interacting with them before any procedure. The attitude of the staff (such as receptionist, dental nurses, dental hygienists) is also very professional.

Overall, dentists are paid well and there is a good work-life balance that keeps your passion for the profession alive and also enables you to have a life outside the clinic.

What are the challenges you faced?

The most challenging part was devoting a year in enhancing clinical skills for practical exams. I feel that was the toughest phase. It turned even more frustrating when my batchmates started their own practice or got admitted into postgraduation courses back home in India, while I was still struggling with manikins. Sometimes I wanted to quit and come back to India, but my family motivated me to give one fair attempt.

Another setback was during my final practical exam. We had to perform a total of 12 tasks. I did well in all of them, except for one. In one of the tasks of amalgam filling, the examiner found that the filling had fractured. I was disheartened, shattered, and thought this to be the end of my dreams of qualifying the practical exams. But with the grace of God, I made it as my overall score was good enough to pass.

How was the transition from working on models to starting up with the patient after a gap of almost 2 years?

Even during my preparation, I used to go and observe dentists in nearby clinics. I was pretty familiar with the norms of clinics. After joining the practice, I was under observership for a period of 7-10 days. After that I was allowed to work on patients. It wasn’t very difficult to adapt.

How has your experience of living in Australia been so far?

Some people may find moving to another country daunting but people are very friendly here. There are a lot of Indians around. Food-wise there are a lot of options available even for vegetarians like me. You can easily find Indian restaurants. I had also hired Indian tiffin food services during my exam preparations. English is the most commonly spoken language and climate is also favorable. Fortunately, the overall journey has been good for me with minimal difficulties.

Would you recommend Indian dentists to practice in Australia?


About the author

Dr. Shilpy Bhandari is a Hyderabad-based Periodontist and the founder of Dentistry Insider. She has worked extensively across dental clinics of all sizes — from large corporate chains to small, independent setups.

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