Dental Public Health Residency (DPHR) Program Frequently Asked Questions

Residency Overview

Dental public health is the science and art of preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through organized community efforts. It is that form of dental practice that serves a community rather than an individual as the patient. It is concerned with the dental education of the public, with applied dental research, with the administration of group dental care programs, and with the prevention and control of dental diseases on a community basis.

Dental public health Residents work on a variety of research projects that are typically guided by the residents’ professional interests and the mission of CDC’s Division of Oral Health. With the support of the division’s epidemiology, statistical, and policy personnel, Residents have the opportunity to publish their research project in a scientific journal. Examples of research projects completed by Residents include:

  • Unmet Dental Care Needs Among US Working-Age Adults and Association With Reporting Need for Dental Care.
  • Examining Trends of Untreated Dental Caries and Dental Sealant Utilization among Mexican-American Children and Adolescents.
  • Prevalence of Dental Disease among Adults With Chronic Conditions in 2011–2016 and Changes from 1999–2004.
  • Trends and Disparities in Tooth Loss and Untreated Tooth Decay among Adults 65 years and older, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999–2004 and 2011–2016.

The DPHR Program provides a pathway for a wide range of careers. Many program graduates choose careers in health settings, where they work with public health and dental colleagues in federal, state, or local health agencies; voluntary organizations; research institutions; or health care delivery or reimbursement systems. Fifty percent (50%) of DPHR graduates complete American Board of Dental Public Health (ABDPH) examinations and gain diplomate status.

The DPHR Program provides residents the opportunity to gain knowledge, experience, and skills across all 10 competency areas outlined by the American Board of Dental Public Health (ABDPH). After completing the program, Residents are prepared and eligible to sit for their Dental Public Health Certification. CDC’s DPHR Program is one of only nine dental public health residencies in which Residents receive a stipend. Residents build an individualized training plan that aligns with their interests and experience while also contributing to CDC’s strategic objectives. Residents have the opportunity to publish their research projects, conduct field experience, and work alongside a team of subject matter experts at the nation’s leading public health agency.

Residents complete research projects and site visits at CDC partner agencies, such as state health departments. The network of relationships with these partners puts Residents in a unique position to pursue competitive positions and opportunities after completing the program.

The Residency Training Plan is an individualized training plan focused on the American Board of Dental Public Health (ABDPH) core competencies. As part of their plan, each Resident will collaborate in guided practice with public health and dental stakeholders across an array of health care settings. Each Resident is expected to develop scientific inquiry and research skills—particularly in the areas of oral health surveillance and epidemiology—and will complete a supervised field experience and applied research project. At the end of their residency, residents will earn a certificate of completion that meets the education requirements established by the ABDPH for board specialty certification.

Yes, stipends for Residents are provided through CDC’s Fellowship Program. This program is designed to encourage training for research and advancing health science. In 2018, program stipends ranged from $45,000 to $65,000, depending on the Resident’s prior professional experience. Stipends for part-time Residents are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Application Requirements

No. Completion of graduate training in public health is a requirement that cannot be waived, per the American Association of Public Health Dentistryexternal icon.

No. This is a residency training for dentists who plan to become dental public health specialists.

No. Applicants must have completed both their MPH and their dental degrees. If you are currently enrolled in an MPH program, you may apply only if you will graduate during the open application period.

There is no minimum GPA, but applicants accepted into the program typically have a GPA of 3.5 or higher for their MPH degree.

The five required courses for the MPH or comparable degree are biostatistics, epidemiology, health care policy and management, environmental health, and behavioral sciences. Applicants who completed their public health training at an institution outside the United States must demonstrate satisfactory completion of two or more years (full-time equivalent) of advanced education in an area related to the practice of dental public health in addition to the content areas described above.

Application Process

The application cycle opens in August and closes at the end of September each year.

See the Applying to DPHR page for detailed application instructions. Applicants will need to email the following materials in a single package that is received by the deadline:

Three letters of recommendation written in English also are required and must be submitted separately. Applicants need to ensure that their references submit recommendation letters directly to the program, by the deadline.

Applicants must email all completed application materials in a Zip File to Refer to the Zip File Instructions pdf icon[PDF – 466KB] for detailed directions. Only complete applications received by the deadline will be reviewed for consideration.

We accept letters of recommendation by email to under the following conditions:

  • The letter should be written on the reference’s letterhead.
  • The letter should be signed by the reference.
  • The letter should be sent as an attachment from the reference’s email account.

Acceptance into the CDC DPHR Program is extremely competitive. We typically accept one or two Residents each year. During the 2017–2018 cycle, a single Resident was accepted from 33 applicants.

In addition to strong academic training and dental experience, successful applicants typically have interests and experience working with public health and dental stakeholders to improve oral health for populations. Residents should be interested in developing skills in the methods of scientific inquiry and research, particularly in the areas of oral health epidemiology and population-based efforts to prevent oral diseases and promote oral health.

International Applicants

Yes, you may apply. International applicants must:

  • Have their courses evaluated by a credentialing organization for transcripts from educational institutions outside the United States.
  • Submit their TOEFL score.

No. To be eligible for this residency program and the American Board of Dental Public Health examination, the graduate-level degree course content must include environmental health, biostatistics, epidemiology, health care policy and management, and behavioral sciences. If your course work does not include one or more of those areas, then you need to take the required graduate courses at an accredited institution and send us a proof of completion along with your master’s transcript.

No, you do not need a US dental license to apply.

In the United States, licensure requirements vary from state to state. Contact the board of dentistry in your state of interest to get up-to-date information about licensure requirements and laws.


No. TOEFL scores are required only for applicants who received both their dental and their MPH degrees from institutions with a language of instruction other than English.

CDC is approved by the US Department of State to sponsor exchange visitors (J-1 visa holders) in the research category. CDC can sponsor J-1 exchange visitor visas for this program only on a case-by-case basis for accepted applicants. To qualify for visa sponsorship, applicants must provide:

  • Copy of diploma(s).
  • Transcripts.
  • Letter certifying that the applicant is proficient in reading, writing, and understanding English.
  • Completed J-1 assistance form for exchange visitor (provided by sponsoring agency).
  • Copy of marriage certificate (English translation), if applicable.
  • Copy of passport.
  • Proof of health Insurance.

Find out more about the Exchange Visitor Programexternal icon (J-1 visa).