Choosing Dentistry as a Career | General Statistics | Preparing for a Career in Dentistry | The Admissions Process | Sample Undergraduate Program | Relevant Websites and Resources | Frequently Asked Questions |
Dentistry is a profession that combines science and technology with helping people to enhance and maintain their oral health. Dentists are responsible for diagnosing, treating, and helping with the prevention of diseases, injuries and malformations of the teeth and mouth. They improve a patient's appearance by cosmetic and surgical procedures, educating the patient on oral care, teaching and training future dentists, and performing research directed to developing new treatment methods and improving oral health.
Fast Facts (PDF)
Choosing Dentistry as a Career
Seventy-five percent of individuals who choose to attend dental school either do so during or after college. Only a quarter of graduating dental students indicate that they intended on pursuing a career in dentistry before they actually entered college.
There are many reasons students choose dentistry as a career:
- Excellent income: the mean annual net income of general dentists in private practice is more than $185,000 and over $315,000 for specialists
- Satisfying professional career: many dentists enjoy the independence and autonomy of owning their own practice and the flexibility of determining their practice hours (thus allowing more time for personal life)
- Dentistry is viewed by the public as one of the most trusted and ethical professions in the U.S.
- Career outlook is good. New dentists are needed in private practice, as teachers and researchers in public health.
- The dental profession seeks to increase the number of underrepresented. Currently, only 16% of all professionally active U.S. dentists are female, with more women entering dental school than ever. In addition, approximately 7% of all professionally active U.S. dentists are underrepresented minorities.
To date, there are currently 175,000 practicing dentists. Most active dentists (92%) are general practitioners, while others are recognized as specialists in one of nine areas: (1) orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics; (2) oral and maxillofacial surgery; (3) endodontics; (4) periodontics; (5) pediatric dentistry; (6) prosthodontics; (7) oral and maxillofacial pathology; (8) dental public health; (9) oral and maxillofacial radiology.
The majority of dentists work in an office setting either in solo practice or with a team of dentists. After receiving a doctoral degree in dentistry, either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), a dentist generally enters private practice immediately.
As of March, 2007, there are 56 accredited U.S. dental schools. Several additional dental schools are currently being developed and anticipate accepting students in the 2008 or 2009 entering classes. Ohio has two dental schools: The Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University. Dental school admission statistics can be found at the following links:
- National Statistics
- Ohio Statistics
For more information on dental school admission statistics, please visit the ADEA website at www.adea.org.
Preparing for a Career in Dentistry
Does it matter what you major in if you want to pursue dental school? While the answer is "no", the majority of dental students majored in the biological or natural sciences. Other majors of pre-dental students include business, social sciences, engineering, and the humanities. Dental admission committees do not look for a particular undergraduate major as long as the applicants have successfully completed the required courses and demonstrated a strong academic ability.
Admission requirements to the dental schools vary by school. However, the majority of dental schools require a minimum of:
- 8 semester (or 12 quarter) hours of biology
- 8 semester (or 12 quarter) hours of general chemistry
- 8 semester (or 12 quarter) hours of organic chemistry
- 8 semester (or 12 quarter) hours of physics
- Courses in mathematics, English and social sciences
In addition, some dental schools strongly recommend upper-level science courses in biochemistry, microbiology and genetics. Most dental schools give preference to applicants who will have earned a baccalaureate degree prior to matriculation in dental school. Although a degree is not required (minimum 2 years of college study is required), less than 1% of the matriculating class had not completed a degree.
The Admissions Process
Factors Evaluated by Admission Committees:
- Academic Record: the single most important factor in admissions decisions. Committees will evaluate cumulative GPA as well as science GPA, courses completed, academic rigor, and trends in performance. Employment and extracurricular activity participation are taken into consideration.
- Dental Admissions Test (DAT): required by all dental schools. This test is divided into four main areas:
- Survey of Natural Sciences (longest test): biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry
- Reading Comprehension (taken from basic science subjects with dental emphasis)
- Quantitative Ability (math problems that test mathematical reasoning; trigonometry or calculus are not required)
- Perceptual Ability (two- and three-dimensional spatial problem solving)
Sample Undergraduate Program
- B.S. Biological Sciences/pre-dent - LINK COMING SOON
- B.S. Psychology/pre-dent - LINK COMING SOON
Relevant Websites and Resources
Official Guide to Dental Schools is published annually by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). This resource includes program descriptions, selection criteria and statistics of admitted students for each dental school. A copy of this resource can be found at most local libraries, but can also be purchased online at www.adea.org.
American Student Dental Association: www.asdanet.org
ASDA news: monthly newspaper for dentists, dental students, and undergraduate pre-dent students
Mouth: quarterly journal for dental students
Getting into Dental School: ASDA's Guide for Predental Students
Guide to Postdoctoral Programs Vol. 1-3
Dental Admission Test: www.ada.org/prof/ed/testing/dat
Dentistry career information: www.ada.org/goto/careers
www.ExploreHealthCareers.org Sponsored by the American Dental Education Association, it provides about all health-related occupations.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I apply to dental school?
Applications to dental school become available in mid-May for the next entering class. Each dental school has its own application deadlines, which range from September 1 to February 1. Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply early. Dental schools begin receiving applications in June, and generally begin interviews in August and September.
How do I go about applying to dental school?
All students interested in applying to dental school must submit a centralized application through the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS). Applicants submit a primary application through AADSAS; transcripts are verified, grade point averages are calculated, and AADSAS sends a standard application packet to each of the dental schools designated by the applicant. Few dental schools do not participate in AADSAS and if a student is applying to one of these schools, they must send their applications directly to the individual dental school.
AADSAS applications can take up to 4-8 weeks to process. Many dental schools also have supplemental applications and fees that must be submitted to consider the application complete. Applicants can view the Official Guide to Dental Schools resource book to be familiar with the dental schools. Applicants are encouraged to apply to more than one dental school.
What is an acceptable DAT score?
Each dental school is different. The Official Guide to Dental Schools lists competitive DAT and GPAs for a particular school. Applicants are encouraged to be familiar with the format and the subject content of the test before sitting for the test.
Are sample tests available?
A sample test is available at the ADA website: www.ada.org
Students can also purchase study materials and/or courses to help prepare for the DAT. Please see the Pre-Health Advisor for literature regarding these materials and courses. It is important to remember that to do well on the DAT, a considerable amount of time (several weeks to months) should be reserved for studying material on a daily basis.
How many letters of evaluation are required for dental school?
Most dental schools required 3-4 letters of evaluation or recommendation. At Wright State University, there are two methods for compiling and submitting letters of evaluation: (1) a composite letter submitted by the health professions advising office, and (2) individual letters of evaluation sent to the application service (or directly to the dental schools). A composite letter consists of a collection of individual letters of evaluation that are collected by the health professions advising office and supplied to the application service under a cover letter from the Pre-Health Advisor.
Dental schools prefer at least 3 faculty evaluation letters, with two from science faculty. A letter of support from a dentist is strongly recommended.
What is the dental school interview like?
Only applicants that are seriously being considered for matriculation are generally invited for an interview. Applicants will be expected to discuss their motivation for dentistry, their personal and professional goals, and their assessment of current oral health issues. Interviewing formats vary and can either be one-on-one or in a small group. Applicants are usually provided with information about the school's interviewing process before the interview. Most students will be taken on school tours, meet with current students, and discuss financial costs with an advisor.
For assistance in preparing for the interviewing process, please contact the Pre-Health Advisor or the Career Services office to schedule a mock interview.
What types of extracurricular activities and work experience should I have in order to be a competitive applicant?
- Community service that demonstrates a commitment to helping others and/or increasing awareness of oral health issues
- Leadership positions, such as in student organizations, charity organizations, fundraiser activities, etc.
- Activities that demonstrate your ability to manage multiple tasks while performing well academically
- Shadowing hours with a general dentist
"Quality and persistence are far more important than quantity"
When will I find out if I am accepted into dental school?
Dental schools begin sending offers of acceptance starting December 1st. Depending on when an applicant receives their acceptance, they have between 15 and 45 days to respond. Most dental schools will require a tuition deposit to hold a position in a class.
Many dental schools develop a wait list or alternate list. On May 1, dental schools report to AADSAS the names of their confirmed acceptances and AADSAS provides each school with the names of those applicants who hold positions at more than one school. Dental schools may contact such individuals and may rescind an offer of admission if there is no resolution after 15 days.
Are there any joint degree programs provided with dentistry?
Yes, some programs will offer a joint Master's (e.g., Public Health, Business Administration) or Doctoral (Ph.D.). For more information on these degree programs, you can review the Official Guide to Dental Schools or see the Pre-Health Advisor.
Does Wright State have a pre-dental student organization?
The University is currently forming a student organization for pre-dental students. This organization will provide mentoring, educational speakers, volunteer and community service, and social activities. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Pre-Health Advisor.