The purpose of this study was to compare career choice and future plans of dental students in China and Japan. Information was derived from a self-answered questionnaire. Significant differences were detected for eight items between the two countries. Regarding motivation towards career choice, 41% of Japanese students indicated positive motives related to helping others, achieving self-worth and health-care related interests, whereas Chinese students indicated that their choice was mainly for financial and prestige reasons, and for 32% of them, dentistry was a passive choice. More Chinese dental students (74%) wanted further education compared with Japanese students (22%). The majority of Japanese students (56.9%) planned to work as general dentists. Conversely, Chinese students were more likely to specialise (50%). More than 50% of Japanese students wanted to work in dental offices, but the majority of Chinese students (65%) preferred university hospital. We found it is strange that nearly one-fourth of the Chinese students did not want to be a clinical dentist mainly because of the poor health-care environment. This study provides a description of the perspectives of Japanese and Chinese dental students and enables a better understanding of career choices and future course design issues.