Dentists maintain oral health and by doing so help maintain their patients’ overall health. In their practices, dentists help patients maintain oral health, use diagnostic ability and manual skills, treat and work with people from all age groups requiring good communication skills, examine the head, neck, and oral cavity, and diagnose conditions using advanced technologies including radiography and computer-generated imaging, restore and replace teeth damaged from decay, trauma or disease, help patients to improve chewing, speech, digestion of food, sleep patterns and appearance. Specialties are available within dentistry with further training following dental school including Endodontics (nerves), Oral Surgery, Orthodontics, Prosthodontics (appliances), Public Health and others.
Preparation and Applying
- Observe a general dentist to make sure this is the right field for you and you truly understand what it means to be a dentist. Aim for at least 100 hours of observation time, but more hours are required at some schools.
- Adopting a hobby or skill that develops and illustrates manual dexterity is recommended.
- Students need to take the Dental Aptitude Test (DAT) to apply to dental school. The DAT is a standardized online exam taken about 15 months before beginning dental school (generally in the spring/summer following the junior year of college).
- Dental programs may differ slightly in their requirements. Many schools recommend courses such as art, business management, accounting, statistics, interpersonal communications, Spanish, cell biology, genetics, histology, microbiology, and molecular biology.
- Many schools require at least a C grade in all prerequisite courses.
- The application to most dental programs is through an online common application called the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) https://aadsas.liaisoncas.com/applicant-ux/#/login.
- Students from Texas apply to Texas Dental schools through TMDSAS https://www.tmdsas.com/
- Competitive applicants will have:
- Strong academic performance including a GPA of 3.5 or higher
- High scores on the DAT (generally 18 or better in each section)
- Leadership, teamwork, and communication skills
- Undergraduate research experience
- Volunteer and shadowing/observation experiences
- Evidence of manual dexterity
- Strong positive letters of recommendation (mostly from faculty and dentists)
- Applications (AADSAS and TMDSAS) open in May and should be submitted in June or early July.
- Many factors will influence where you choose to apply. You do need to include the public school(s) where you are an in-state resident as this is often your best chance of admission.
Education and Licensure
- Complete a bachelor’s degree in any major along with prerequisite courses
- Attend a 4 year professional dental school program following the undergraduate degree
- Obtain a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a DMD (Doctor of Medical Dentistry) degree
- Upon completion of dental school, pass a licensing examination.