Tell me more.


Matching Up: Applying for Postdoctoral Programs

Aspen: Aspen Dental

Date:December 27, 2017 

By now many of you might have heard about the “Match”, and you may be confused about it. The Match Process can be a little daunting and very confusing as to how it actually works.

By now many of you might have heard about the “Match”, and you may be confused about it. The Match Process can be a little daunting and very confusing as to how it actually works. According to ADEA, the postdoctoral dental match program is the mechanism used by some postdoctoral dental education programs to determine the final placement of applicants into positions. Simply put, it helps applicants get into their choice programs and also helps programs obtain their choice applicant. 

The Match should not be confused with PASS; they are separate entities. PASS is the centralized application service, which collects and distributes information to the different programs—this initiates the application process. Recall when you applied to dental school. The PASS would be akin to the AADSAS application system/process, whereas the Match is used by applicants and programs to determine final placement after the completion of application evaluation. However, not all programs within a specialty participate in Match. In general, programs participating in PASS or a separate application will interview and offer acceptance much earlier than Match programs.  

Ideally you would know early enough what you wanted to do after graduation or have figured it out at least by your third year. You would need to at least know that you wanted to continue your education after dental school and in what area of study. The postdoctoral dental education programs that participate in the Match are Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD), General Practice Residency (GPR), Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS), Orthodontics (ORTHO), Pediatric Dentistry (PED), and Dental Anesthesia (ANES).

View a comprehensive list of accredited schools for each specialty.  

Keep your thoughts organized from the beginning. List your desired programs based on interest. Modify your list and as you visit programs, talk to current residents and interview. Visit programs you are most interested in. If you already know, express your genuine interest to the program director. Programs want to see that you’ve researched the program and understand what you are looking for. All residencies are looking for someone who meets their requirements and will get along with current residents, faculty, staff and patients. Programs are looking for students who already embody the reflection of the program. 

Key factors

  • Does this program participate in PASS only, PASS and Match or neither? 
  • How many residents accepted per year?
  • What are the pros and cons of the location of the program?
  • Do I want a program focusing on research, academia, or clinic?
  • Does the program have any difficulty providing clinical experience?
  • What is the full time to part time faculty ratio, total faculty to student ratio, and what type of faculty experience does this program offer?
  • How many chairs are available?
  • What is the distribution of your time (clinic, lecture, research, teaching, rotation)?
  • Any affiliations with hospitals or other institutions (e.g. craniofacial center)?
  • Is it tuition only, tuition and stipend, or stipend only?
  • What is the impact of the program’s research within the specialty?
  • Is there a master’s requirement?

The PASS application typically opens up in May of each year. The deadlines for submission of your application will depend on the type of program you are applying to and the particular program’s deadline. In addition, there are two phases of the Match process:

Phase I: Orthodontics and Anesthesiology Programs. Rank order lists are submitted late November each year for match results in early December.

Phase II: General Practice Residencies (GPR), Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD), Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery (OMS) and Pediatric Dentistry (PED) programs. Rank order lists are submitted in early January of each year for match results in late January. 

If you do not match, email programs immediately looking for post-Match positions. 

You must be organized in order to meet these deadlines and you need to ensure that you have all the required documentation in the PASS application on time in order to submit on time. 

Documentation checklist: 

  • Personal statement - average 5200 characters, 650 words
  • Evaluations – Two to four Professional Evaluation Forms (PEFs) and one Institution Evaluation Form (IEF) 
  • Official dental school transcript 
  • Unofficial undergraduate transcript
  • CV/ Resume 
  • 2x2 professional photo 
  • NBDE and ADAT test scores
  • If applicable: TOEFL, ETS, GRE

Recent changes to PASS

Take note of two notable changes. PPIs are no longer used. You will be asking for two to four traditional letters of recommendation.  Another major change is the ADAT. 2016 was the pilot year. A list of programs requiring the ADAT will be available in February through ADA and ADEA. Not all programs require the ADAT. If your programs do require the ADAT, registration will open in February. The ADAT is four and a half hours. The test score will range from 200-800, with the target score being 500. The score will be made available in June and September, and your test score will be sent only to the programs you have designated at the time of taking your exam. For more information, visit

Related Reading