2017 Match Day!*

*Disclaimer: My perspective on this specific topic, the Match, will surely change over the years, and it’s very possible that the Match will change itself. The sources for information in this specific post include the National Matching Services (NMS) website, dental school websites, and charts/spreadsheets that were given to me over the past year. If there is information that is incorrect or missing, I apologize. Hopefully I’ll learn more over the next few years, and happy reading!

January 30th, 2017 was a big day. It was match day! “But it’s already been 6 weeks,” you might say. Yes. Match statistics came up during a recent lunchtime interview panel with UCLA SOD applicants, so I figured I’d post about it because we, even as D1s, sense the commotion during Match Day at UCLA SOD.

As a D1, the whole concept of ‘matching’ is nebulous. An algorithm decides our future specialties? What are non-match programs? I don’t need to enter the match if I decide to enter private practice upon graduation, right? Right???

A D1 – D4 panel PSYCHED for UCLA SOD applicants! 🙂

Technically, January 30th was the second match day! Dental students undergo a matching process that is distinct from that of medical students. While medical students have a single large-scale unveiling of postdoctoral ‘matches’, dental students have two match days depending on the program(s) they applied to. I’m not sure about the match process for pharmacy, psychology, podiatry, and optometry students, but the dental process may be distinct from theirs as well!

  1. What is the ‘Match’?

In short, the Match is a matchmaker between applicants and postdoctoral programs.  According to the National Matching Services (NMS) website, the Match facilitates an “orderly process to help applicants obtain positions in postdoctoral dental education programs of their choice, and to help programs obtain applicants of their choice”. Applicants apply to programs, and for programs at which they interview, they submit a ordinal list ranking each of those programs. In turn, each postdoctoral program submits a list, ranking each of their interviewees. A matching algorithm is then run, and on a particular day, these match results are released!

The algorithm is optimized for the applicant. That is, if you have a top choice program listed first, and that top choice program listed you, you should technically be matched into that program… Unless your top choice program has listed other applicants ahead of you (who also ranked them first) and all available positions are filled. In cases where applicants do NOT match, there is a post-match process. The NMS website has information about the post-match process, but it differs a little from the upperclassmen I have talked to. Long story short, however, it seems that unmatched applicants go through some sort of ‘scramble’ for the unmatched positions in the program they applied to. Not matching is commonplace and occurred for 979 applicants this Match cycle (of 2622 total applicants), and there were 303 unfilled positions. Assuming a lofty 100% fill rate by the start of all programs, 30.9% of unmatched applicants can still enter into a program even if they didn’t match through the algorithm. Pretty cool! There are also internship programs, but I don’t know much about them.

2. What’s the general timeline like?

Taken directly from the NMS website, in the most recent 2017-2018 cycle, postdoctoral program applicants could begin registering for the Match in mid-May. At the end of October, NMS opened up for Phase I participants to submit Rank Order Lists. Phase I match includes only applicants for positions in 3 programs: orthodontics, dental anesthesia, and Canadian general practice residency (GPR). These  Phase I results were released on November 30, 2016! Phase II match opened up on January 13th for US GPR, advanced education in general dentistry (AEGD), oral and maxillofacial surgery, and pediatric dentistry positions. Those results came out on January 30, 2017. 

It is important to note, however, that other postgraduate programs exist.  ADA-certified dental specialties exist for dental public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, periodontics, and prosthodontics. These programs also have an application process, but they presumably do not participate in the Match. Perhaps you apply to each program individually, and each program has their own timeline? I’m not sure.

There are also non-match programs. Here’s a Pubmed article I found that discusses some of the non-match orthodontic programs. I know for one that the UCLA Orthodontics Residency Program does not participate in the Match. You apply to UCLA separately. If you’re given an acceptance offer and decide to attend UCLA, you then must withdraw from the Phase I orthodontics Match.

I am currently interested in pursuing a future in oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS), which is why the January 30th Match day was exciting. I had talked to a handful of D4 OMFS applicants prior to 1/30. They were all so hopeful, and for good reason! These applicants had worked incredibly hard in their academic, clinical, and extracurricular endeavors up until this point. Not to mention the all the sacrifices (or should I say, investments) they had made to take the CBSE, complete externships, and apply/interview while still sharing their lives with the people and hobbies they love. I hoped for all of them to match on 1/30! Talk about nerve-wracking!

3. So what happened on January 30th?

By the end of the day, I had heard that 13 out of 16 UCLA D4 applicants had matched, and at least 3 or 4 alumni applicants had matched as well. One of my D4 friends at Columbia had told me that 18 out of 20 Columbia D4 applicants had matched. Wow! These are huge numbers considering the fact that the typical UCLA and Columbia class sizes are 88 and 80, respectively. If 35 applicants from these two schools (out of 66 dental schools in the U.S.) truly did match (out of a total 229 possible OMFS positions), that means that applicants from 3% of all dental schools matched into 15% of all OMFS program positions. *insert shocked emoji here*

Pretty recently, I was alerted to a Student Doctor Network (SDN) thread. Someone specifically asked about the UCLA and Columbia OMFS matches, and two users responded with all the UCLA and Columbia OMFS matches. The numbers posted there are different from what I mentioned in the previous paragraph, so definitely take everything (including my posts) with a grain of salt. It’s cool that some people are making information like this available!

If you’re a pre-dental student who knows you’re in specializing (I was not), you should look into match statistics for dental schools. Columbia makes this information available publicly. Most other schools are more discreet – I don’t think I know of any other school that officially publicizes their match data.

If you’re not sure about specializing, but want to keep that option open, there’s no harm in attending a school with relatively high specialization rates. If you know you want to specialize but you attend a school that has lower specialization rates, do not fret! If there’s a will, there’s a way. 🙂


Update (6/5/2017): According to graduation materials, 10 D4 applicants from UCLA matched to oral surgery residencies, including internships! Congratulations to all the graduates!




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