Dental Medicine (D.M.D., D.D.S.)
Dentistry is a dynamic and rewarding profession that offers many unique opportunities and benefits. Students can explore careers in the realm of private practice, academia (teaching and research), government agencies, or industry. The hallmarks of a qualified dental laboratory technician are accuracy, artistic ability and attention to minute detail. If you are interested in helping patients, have strong communication skills, enjoy working with your hands as well as your mind, and want a career with responsibility, dentistry may be your calling.
In addition to the text that follows, be sure to check out GoDental, an initiative by the American Dental Education Association that provides those considering dentistry information and guidance to apply to programs, matriculate, and eventually fulfill dental career goals. You can also subscribe to the GoDental newsletter.
Five Reasons to be a Dentist
- Dentists play an important role in improving patients’ health and appearance.
- A private practice dentist can create his/her own hours and is not generally subject to the effects of managed care and reductions in federal funding.
- The average net income for dentists has doubled in the last decade and is in the highest 5% of U.S. family incomes. In fact, net hourly incomes for dentists now exceed those of family physicians, general internists, and pediatricians.
- The dental profession benefits from and heads important new research on the use of lasers, computer-generated imaging, and other new technology.
- Dentists are often able to enter practice directly upon completion of four years of dental school.
Generally, a degree in dentistry requires four academic years of study. The first two years usually cover the basic sciences and the last two years, diagnosing oral disease, surgery, and clinical study. At the completion of the curriculum, students are awarded either a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) or DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) degree.
Pre-Dental Course Requirements
Dental schools do not select or give preference to any particular majors; therefore, you do not have to major in the sciences. Dental schools are looking for well-educated and well-rounded individuals. Consider alternate future careers in the event you change your mind, or are not accepted to dental school. Choose to major in something that you enjoy and where you do well. Although most dental schools don’t require a bachelor’s degree, it is highly recommended that you have plans to complete an undergraduate degree.
The requirements for entry into Dental School vary a bit from school to school but, in general, the requirements are as listed below. Planning for application to dental school is a simple process that involves completing the requirements of your major and working with your pre-dental advisor to ensure all required courses are completed prior to submitting your application.
- 2 courses in general (inorganic) chemistry with associated labs
- 2 courses in organic chemistry with associated lab (a separate course at JHU, a 3 credit Organic Chemistry lab)
- 2 courses in biology with associated labs
- 1 course in biochemistry (no associated lab necessary if not required for major)
- 2 courses in general physics with associated labs (Calculus I and II are co-requisites for General Physics I & II at JHU)
- 2 courses in mathematics (one of the courses should be an introductory-level course in statistics)
- 2 courses that emphasize English and/or writing
The Dental Admission Test (DAT)
Most dental schools require that applicants take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The DAT is administered by computer at Prometric Testing Centers and students can register for the DAT through the American Dental Association’s (ADA) website. The test is usually taken Spring semester, junior year and covers four areas of study: 1) a survey of natural sciences (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry); 2) reading comprehension; 3) quantitative ability; and 4) perceptual ability. Note that physics is not covered on the DAT. In the future, a section may be added to assess critical thinking skills.
Students can prepare for the DAT in a variety of ways, including taking a test preparatory course or by purchasing study materials individually. Students can be successful using either strategy, so you should weigh your personal needs when deciding on an approach. Visit our DAT page for more information.
The Application Process
The application process for dental schools begins the summer of the year before the year of entry. For example, to enter dental school in fall 2009, you would apply the summer of 2008. Most dental schools belong to the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS). Those applying to member AADSAS schools do so online.
Many schools have rolling admission policies, which means that they will review applications on an ongoing basis, as submitted. Applicants who submit materials well before the deadlines may receive earlier interviews and consideration for admission! For early consideration, it is advisable to complete your primary application by July 4th.
If a school remains interested in you, after reviewing your primary application, they will send you secondary applications specific to that school. Secondary applications typically include additional essays and an application fee for the school. These are not usually due until winter. You should, however, plan to submit the secondary application as soon as possible to secure an interview.
Dental schools want to be sure that applicants have a genuine understanding of the dental profession and dedication to the dental field. As a result, you should develop a mentor relationship with a dental professional and establish a consistent record of volunteer work or service to dental health programs. Actively participating in student groups can also prove invaluable. These experiences can be arranged following consultation with the pre-dental advisor.
American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Resources
- Tips for completing the AADSAS application
- Predental timeline, which offers a roadmap for the application process
- Predental shadowing guide, which explains step by step how to set up, attend and keep track of shadowing opportunities
- Predental webinars on a variety of topics, including preparing for the DAT and choosing the right dental school
Dental Exploration Programs
Rutger’s University’s Gateway to Dentistry, is designed to introduce undergraduate students to the wide range of career options associated with the dental profession.
University of Maryland, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, Dental School’s Dentistry Today is a program designed for college students in their first, second, or third year of college who are considering dentistry as a career. The program allows participants to learn about the dental profession, dental education, dental specialties and the wide range of career options available within dentistry.
Pre-Dental Enhancement Programs
- The Creighton University School of Dentistry Post-Baccalaureate Program
- The San Francisco State University Adjunct Dental Post-Baccalaureate Program
- University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry Post-Baccalaureate Program
- UMDNJ M.S in Biomedical Sciences Dental Scholars Program
- Boston University Medical Sciences (MAMS) Oral Health Sciences Track