Dentistry as a Career

A dentist and dental hygienist working on a patient.Some dental schools will consider students for admission without a bachelor’s degree, but most applicants have completed a bachelor’s degree prior to matriculation. Students earn a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) in a four-year dental school program.  For more information, see Explore Health Dentist

University Course Work

  • Meet with your pre-dental adviser at least one time each semester and add your name to the “pre-dental email distribution list.”
  • Choose a major that you enjoy and that provides a good “back-up plan” and career options in case you change your mind about dentistry. Common majors include biology, microbiology, chemistry, and biochemistry.
  • Carefully check admission requirements at dental schools of most interest and take the required coursework. In general, most dental schools require at a minimum:
    • A year of general chemistry (Chem 111 and 112) with labs
    • A year of general physics (Phys 111 and 112 or Phys 211 and 212) with labs
    • A year of organic chemistry (Chem 277 and 372) with labs
    • A year of biology (Bio 115 and 116) with labs
    • For more detail on requirements and recommended courses, review programs of interest at American Dental Association: DDS/DMD Programs. Also consider purchasing the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools which includes each school's entrance requirements (GPA, Dental Admissions Test scores, and pre-dental education), application and selection processes, dental curriculum, special programs and services, costs, and financial aid
    • Qualifying for dental school
  • Maintain a high GPA. For 2011, dental school enrollees had a mean cumulative undergrad GPA of 3.53 and science GPA of 3.45 and a DAT academic average score of 19.3 and total science average score of 19.5. Documents: American Dental Education Association

School (Your Time at University)

  • Get significant shadowing and clinical experience and maintain a formal log (Professional Development Activities Log (Word)). Find out firsthand what the profession is like, decide if it is right for you, explore different areas of the field and in different settings, and be sure to meet clinical experience requirements of your preferred schools.
  • Develop strong relationships with faculty mentors, dental professionals, and others who will be writing letters of reference
  • Get involved in extracurricular, leadership, and volunteer activities

Applying to Dental School