The traditional dental school program is four years long. In the first two years of dental school, students spend most of their time studying basic biological sciences and learning the structure and function of the body and the diseases that can affect it. Students also often learn about how to care for a diverse array of populations and may interact with patients to provide very basic oral health care. Most of their training outside of the core classes in the first two years involves practicing procedures on models of the mouth and teeth. The last two years of dental school mostly involve clinical study (direct patient care) and some practice management instruction. Students will learn to care for chronically ill, disabled, special care and geriatric patients as well as children to ensure they have a wide variety of experience caring for all types of people.
At many schools, students often rotate through various clinics, hospitals and other off-campus community settings, and work under the supervision of a clinical instructor. This gives students the opportunity to work closely with other health professionals and health professions students, giving them the appreciation of a team approach to health care delivery.
Dental schools change their curriculums often to meet the needs of a constantly changing population, but this general outline tends to stay the same across all schools.
For a list of Dental Schools, please visit: https://www.adea.org/dentalschools/
For information on what comprises dental school, please visit: https://www.adea.org/GoDental/Future_Dentists/Dental_school_curriculum.aspx For more information, please visit www.adea.org
GPA & DAT (Dental Admissions Test)- www.ada.org/education/testing/exams/dental-admission-test-dat
Personal Essay- In your personal statement, you will explain why you want to pursue a dental career. The statement should not exceed 4,500 characters (including spaces, carriages, numbers, letters, etc.). Do not make the statement specific to each dental school, as ADEA AADSAS will provide the statement to all dental schools designated in the application.
Healthcare/Clinical Experience- Volunteer or shadow at a dental office. Each school determines how much is required. University of the Pacific, as an example, requires a minimum of 40 shadowing hours.
Leadership- Show that you take initiative and can lead a team by sitting on a board, being an Undergrad Instructional Apprentice, or creating your own project. Leadership can take many forms.
Research Experience — Practical or Theory: Research experience is not a requirement but is highly recommended. For more information on experiences, please visit: https://www.adea.org/GoDental/ADEA_AADSAS_Application/Supporting_Information.aspx
Letters of Recommendation- To get to know faculty and other professionals, try office hours, coffee with a professor, or become an Undergrad Instructional Apprentice. Look for mentors, not letter writers. Building relationships takes time so begin early! Aim to secure for 3-5 letters. These do not necessarily need to be in science-related fields.
PLEASE NOTE – The following courses should be taken for letter grades (not P/NP). AP scores are typically not accepted for the courses listed below. Lastly, while most dental school programs will accept community college courses, some may require that pre-requirement coursework are met with upper division coursework found at the four-year university.
*Avoid Ws, especially a trend of withdrawing from courses. If you do have Ws, Ds, or Fs, explain them within the application
Most Schools Require:
- English composition (typically covered in your general ed pattern)
- Two semesters of biology with lab
- Two semesters of general chemistry with lab
- Two semesters of organic chemistry with lab
- Two semesters of physics with lab.
Some Schools Require:
- Upper-level biology courses
- General Psychology
- Biochemistry (typically taken (and sometimes required to be taken) at the 4-year university where you are earning your Bachelor’s degree)