Dentists evaluate, diagnose, prevent, and treat diseases, disorders, and conditions of the soft and hard tissues of the jaw (mandible), the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body.
Dentists can choose to practice either general dentistry or specialize in one of the following areas: dental public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and dental facial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, or prosthodontics.
There is a wide range of career opportunities including private practice, academic dentistry, dental research, service in the federal government, public healthcare policy, and international healthcare.
Dentists complete a 4-year graduate-level program (note: specialization requires additional schooling) leading to the award of one of the following, equivalent, degrees:
- Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD)
- Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
There are around 60 dental programs in the United States.
Applying to Dentistry Schools
The majority of dental students possess a bachelor’s degree before they enter dental school. Some have graduate degrees. Some dental schools will admit a few students through early admissions programs with two to three years of undergraduate preparation. The average age of a first-year dental student is 24. Traditionally, dental schools have selected candidates for admission who possess:
- 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
- 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, physiology, microbiology, and/or biochemistry.
The American Dental Association has a list of dental programs with links to each program website. You are encouraged to research each program’s requirements to be sure you have taken the pre-requisite coursework required.
- Find out about Dental School Requirements [Note: link to old PDF with 2015 date] to see a more specific list of requirements for each school.
- Schedule a meeting with Susie Fang to plan out when, and in what order, you will take your classes.
All U.S. dental schools require the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The DAT is a standardized examination designed to measure general academic ability and comprehension of scientific information. Concepts from Introductory Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry are tested. Find out more about the Dental Admission Test (DAT).
Having relevant dental experience is strongly recommended when applying to dental school. Additionally, volunteer work of all types is encouraged. Visit the Volunteer page for ideas and lists of opportunities.
Applying to School
Where to Apply
When you have consulted with the Pre-Health Advisor and are preparing to apply to dental school, you should consult the ADEA resources. Here you can find statistics on grade point averages, admissions processes at each dental school, deadlines, and DAT score information that will help you assess your potential competitiveness as an applicant.
- Do independent research – a good place to start is the current edition of the ADEA’s Official Guide to Dental Schools handbook.
- Make an appointment with Susie Fang to discuss your options.
When to Apply
Applying to dental school is a year-long process. Most schools begin accepting applications in early summer each year and it is recommended that you apply as soon as possible for the best chances at admission and financial aid. If you are applying through a centralized application service, keep in mind that it can take several weeks for your application to be processed before it is transmitted to your schools.
How to Apply
Most U.S. dental schools use the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS).
When you apply, materials you will send to AADSAS are:
- AADSAS Web Application
- AADSAS Application Fee
- Letters of Evaluation
Materials you will send directly to your school(s) are:
- DAT scores
*Texas schools use the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). You do have the option of using AADSAS, but the schools would prefer that you use TMDSAS.
Tips and Procedures
Coursework: Make sure to check the admissions requirements of the schools you are considering. Some schools may have requirements beyond the regular pre-dental course work. You can plan to take these courses during the application year.
Letters of Evaluation: Some dental schools have specific letter requirements. For example, they might specify a minimum number of evaluations or suggest a specific type of person they want an evaluation from. Make sure you check with the schools you are applying to in order to ensure you meet their evaluation requirements.
In general, you should aim for 3-4 letters with one from a dentist with whom you have shadowed/ mentored/ discussed careers in dentistry.)
For information on letter procedures, visit the Evaluations page.
Personal Statements: Personal Statements can be a maximum of 4,500 characters with spaces or approximately one page single-spaced. The Admissions Committee members who read your essay are looking for individuals who are motivated, academically prepared, articulate, socially conscious, and knowledgeable about the profession. Write about your experiences and any qualities that will make you stand out. Check the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools (available in the Pre-Health Advising Office) for ideas about essays. You can also visit our Personal Statements/Essays page.
Professional Experience: You will have the following sections on your AADSAS application. Brief written descriptions of each of your activities will be required – they do not need to be lengthy, but make sure they are well written!
- Academic Enrichment Programs
- Awards, Honors, Scholarships
- Dentistry Experience
- Extracurricular/Volunteer/Community Service
- Work Experience (Including Military Service)
- Research Experience
What Happens Next?
- Most dental schools will make a first cut based on a minimum GPA, DAT score, or overall feel of the primary application. They will then decide if they will grant you a secondary application. This is handled directly through the school, not through AADSAS.
- Secondary applications are different for each school and are an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you would be a good fit at that individual dental school. Usually they request you to answer a few short answers or short essay questions related to why you are interested in dentistry, why that particular school, or experiences you have had.
- The only way you can move forward in the application process is by turning in your secondary applications on time. From there, your application is reviewed and the committee decides if you will receive an interview. (An additional application fee will be required.) For information on interviewing, visit our Interview page and you might also consider scheduling a mock interview with your Career Services Office.
- Please inform the Pre-Health Advisor if you are interviewed or accepted to a health professions program/school. We track all of this data to better inform future applicants of where our students have had success.
Letters of Evaluation
Have your letters of evaluation sent directly if you are applying through AADSAS.
Have all your letters sent in individually to AADSAS directly by your evaluators. When you fill out your AADSAS application you will go to the “Evaluators” section of your application and indicate the names of your evaluators and other information requested.
After you enter your evaluators’ information into the spaces provided, the evaluators will then receive an email requesting them to log into the secure eLOR service and complete your evaluation at their leisure. Let your evaluators know to expect this email! Evaluators have the option of denying your request.
You are allowed to submit your application before your evaluators have submitted their letters. Just make sure that your evaluators submit their letters in a timely fashion (and, of course, before the application deadline). You should monitor the status of your evaluations (i.e. whether or not they have been completed), by logging into your application and visiting the eLOR section. This can be done even after you have submitted your application.
If a letter has not been submitted and you think it should have been, follow-up with your evaluator to make sure.