Individuals can earn either a D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree in dentistry, which are equivalent qualifications depending on the dental school.
In 2020, there were 10,965 applicants nationally for dental school with 6,257 first-time enrollees.
There are currently 68 dental schools in the U.S. and 10 in Canada.
When selecting a college major, one has flexibility if dental school prerequisites are fulfilled.
Traditionally, dental schools have selected candidates for admission who possessed:
- Two semesters (three quarters) of biology with lab,
- Two semesters (three quarters) of general chemistry with lab,
- Two semesters (three quarters) of organic chemistry with lab and
- Two semesters (three quarters) of physics with lab.
Some dental schools require additional courses, such as English composition, and additional upper-level biology courses, such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology and biochemistry. Some dental schools will substitute one semester of biochemistry for the second semester of organic chemistry. Many schools strongly encourage applicants to take courses in the arts and social sciences.
Many students interested in going to dental school are under the impression that they have to major in biology or some branch of science to be accepted to dental school. This is an incorrect assumption. A specific undergraduate major is not required for acceptance to dental school; however, a good foundation in the sciences is required.
Applicants with a well-rounded education, a variety of interests and personal experiences are ideal candidates and are encouraged to choose a major where they can demonstrate strong academic performance while focusing on developing a strong background in the sciences. Many programs also encourage students to take courses in social sciences, as it is just as important to be able to relate to patients and deal with many different personalities and perspectives as it is to have a good background in biology. Many dental schools have accepted students with majors in music, art history, engineering, math, humanities, and sports administration, to name a few. Most dental students, however, still majored in biology and chemistry. Dental schools look for students who demonstrate a strong ability to handle a rigorous course load, which will hopefully translate to their success with the academic curriculum of dental school.
Applicants typically plan to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) at least one year before starting dental school.
The DAT consists of four sections: Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability Test, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning.
Each section is scored from 1-30, with an overall average score. A 19 is average nationally.
National DAT averages for accepted applicants fluctuate minimally year to year. Recent averages include: Academic - 20.8, PAT - 20.5, Total Science - 20.4.
We also offer DAT Classes onine and in person.
To be considered for admission to dental school, a minimum cumulative collegiate GPA of 3.0 is typically required. A separate Science GPA is calculated based on Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Math (BCPM); as well as BCP and non-science GPAs. All attempts of each course are counted in GPA calculations if a student has repeated courses. Trends in GPA are also considered.
The national GPA averages for applicants accepted to dental school fluctuate minimally from year to year.
Recently reported are:
3.58 Cumulative GPA and 3.49 Science GPA.
Besides a strong GPA and DAT score, dental schools look for the following:
To increase your chances of getting accepted into dental school, there are several factors that you should consider. In addition to a strong GPA and DAT score, dental schools typically look for the following:
Dental related Clinical Volunteer/Work Experiences: This can include shadowing dentists, volunteering or working in dental offices or community health clinics. Different schools may require a specified number of dental shadowing or volunteering hours, such as 100 hours for the University of Michigan or 60 hours for the University of Detroit Mercy. It is recommended to primarily shadow in general practice offices, but it's also beneficial to gain exposure to different settings and specialties.
Extracurricular and Leadership Activities: Participating in organizations and clubs can demonstrate your involvement and leadership skills. The Pre-Dental Club and other clubs related to your interests can be a good fit.
Community service: Engaging in community service activities not only helps others but also shows your commitment to serving the community.
Research experience: Gaining research experience can be beneficial for your dental school application.
Activities that improve Manual Dexterity: Practicing activities like sculpture, jewelry making, knitting/crocheting, or building models can enhance your manual dexterity skills, which are essential for dental work.
Strong letters of recommendation: It's recommended to get letters of recommendation from three faculty members whom you have had for a class (two science and one non-science), as well as one practicing dentist. Ideally, the dentist should have observed your work, or you should have observed their work in a clinical setting.
Clear criminal background check: Dental schools usually require admitted students to pass a criminal background check before starting dental school.
TIMELINE TO APPLY
This is a general application timeline for students studying at a four-year undergraduate institution. Note that this timeline should be used as a guideline and not as a concrete checklist. It's important to consult with your advisor to tailor a more specific timeline to your individual needs.
Meet with a health professions advisor to discuss your goals.
Enroll in recommended biology or chemistry courses.
Consider joining a pre-dental or pre-health professions club at your school to connect with like-minded students, network, participate in community service, and form study groups for science courses.
Take the time to learn more about careers in the dental profession. Speak with your own dentist and gain insights into the advantages and challenges of the profession. Reflect on why a career in dentistry appeals to you.
Familiarize yourself with personal finance, including your student budget, spending habits, credit card usage, and its impact on student loan debt. Explore scholarship and fellowship options. Find ways to balance academics, work, and a comfortable student lifestyle.
Consider participating in a summer academic enrichment program such as the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP), which offers intensive and personalized medical and dental school preparation.
Seek opportunities to work or volunteer in a health care environment, preferably in a dental office or clinic. Gain exposure to the health care field and learn more about the work of dental professionals. Engage in conversations with practicing dentists and educate yourself about issues impacting the profession.
Begin thinking about selecting a major. Keep in mind that it is not necessary to be a science major to attend dental school, although specific science courses are required.
Collaborate with your advisor to identify special opportunities for the upcoming summer. If you qualify and were unable to attend the previous summer, consider applying to an SHPEP program. Many universities and dental schools also offer summer workshops to enhance your preparation.