U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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Dentist and Dental Hygienist Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

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  1. What is the role of the IHS Division of Oral Health (DOH) headquarters?
  2. Is there an age limit for working with IHS DOH?
  3. Do I need a dental license to apply?
  4. Is there an employment application deadline?
  5. Where can I find dental vacancy listings and are they current?
  6. Are signing bonuses available?
  7. What’s the difference between the Civil Service and the Commissioned Corps?
  8. Is the USPHS Commissioned Corps part of the US military?
  9. I’m a dental student interested in the Indian Health Service. What should I consider doing now?
  10. When is the best time to participate in an IHS externship?
  11. If I apply for a dental career with IHS, am I assigned to a site or will I be able to choose the location?
  12. If I work for IHS, where will I live?
  13. Does IHS accept volunteers?
  14. Are there any opportunities for specialty training for dentists?
  15. What does a green $ next to a vacancy mean?
  16. I want to talk to someone at the site I’m interested in. How can I contact them?

1. What is the role of the IHS Division of Oral Health headquarters?
The Division of Oral Health (DOH) headquarters recruits dentists, dental hygienists, dental students and dental hygienist students looking for a career in dentistry with the Indian Health Service (IHS). We serve as your advocate, connecting you with IHS sites that have open positions. After you submit your resume and cover letter of intent, we will market your availability across all IHS locations, which are responsible for making their own hiring decisions. Once you connect with a site you are interested in, you will need to follow their direction to complete the formal, local employment application. Headquarters is always available via email to provide you with guidance.

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2. Is there an age limit for working with IHS DOH?
There are no age requirements for Civil Service or Tribal hire; however, if you choose to pursue employment with us through the US Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps, you must be under age 44 at the time of commissioning.

3. Do I need a dental license to apply?
Yes, unless you’re currently in training. If you are applying for the Civil Service or the Commissioned Corps, employment requires a dental license from any of the 50 US states. For direct Tribal hire, you must be licensed in the state in which you will be working. If you will be graduating this year, then you are welcome to apply now, but you must have a license upon hire date.

4. Is there an employment application deadline?
Although we accept applicants year round, dental students in their final year of training are encouraged to begin the job seeking process in the fall. The goal is to match the candidate to a site well before graduation. Many jobs are open continuously; however, some may have a specific application closing date.

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5. Where can I find dental vacancy listings and are they current?
You can access current dental job openings by viewing our IHS Dental Vacancies list which is updated weekly.

6. Are signing bonuses available?
Yes. Civil Service employees may receive recruitment bonuses authorized by the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) when negotiating their salaries. The Commissioned Corps also offers various types of bonuses, including a $75,000 signing bonus for dentists who consent to a four-year agreement. See our Commissioned Corps Compensation to learn about other bonuses and special pay for dentists.

7. What’s the difference between the Civil Service and the Commissioned Corps?
Both the Civil Service and the Commissioned Corps are federal employment opportunities. Whereas Civil Service is direct federal employment with no multi-year commitment, the Commissioned Corps is part of the USPHS and requires a minimum two-year service commitment. For dentists accepting a signing bonus the commitment is four years. Note that the IHS Loan Repayment Program requires a minimum two-year initial employment commitment.

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8. Is the USPHS Commissioned Corps part of the US military?
Although the USPHS is one of the seven uniformed services of the US Federal government, it is not a military service. Pay and benefits are similar to the military.

9. I’m a dental student interested in the Indian Health Service, what should I consider doing now?
If you’re going to be near an IHS site and would like us to help you arrange a tour, send your request to dentaljobs@ihs.gov. We also encourage students to enroll in our externship program to determine whether a position at a specific IHS or Tribal site is right for you.

10. When is the best time to participate in an IHS externship?
Summer externships are available for students between their third and fourth years of dental school, for a minimum of two weeks between April and September.

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11. If I apply for a dental career with IHS, am I assigned to a site or will I be able to choose the location?
If there are job openings at specific IHS locations you are interested in, we strongly encourage you to apply for them. The choice is yours to accept or decline a job offer.

12. If I work for the IHS, where will I live?
Based on the job location, you may live in a nearby town or on a Tribal reservation.

13. Does IHS accept volunteers?
If you would like to volunteer, please search the vacancy database and contact that site directly. We also encourage you to volunteer with the ADA Volunteer Program.

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14. Are there any opportunities for specialty training for dentists?
Yes. The minimum requirement to apply for such opportunities exists after at least two years of service with the Indian Health Service. Depending on the sites, there may be opportunities available for Long Term Training (LTT) in Pediatric Dentistry, Endodontics, Oral Surgery and Dental Public Health.

15. What does a green $ next to a vacancy mean?
The green $ means that this job opportunity will guarantee loan repayment. The national LRP for dentists is currently funded at $4 million per year (and that may increase). Loan repayment awards are conducted through monthly cycles usually starting every January. In recent years, the Dental LRP funds have been available through June/July rounds. Sites with a green $ will award loan repayment to the candidate even if the national program exhausted its annual funds.

16. I want to talk to someone at the site I’m interested in. How can I contact them?
You can click on the job title in the current vacancies list to find the name and phone number listed under “Primary Job Contact” and/or the “Area Contact.”

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