There are currently 64 U.S. and 10 Canadian dental schools which will be accepting applications for the upcoming year. The schools are competitive, but dentistry is a great profession to pursue.
Courses required for admission to dental schools are quite similar, although each dental school sets its own requirements. It is very important that you check the individual schools requirements as you near the application time (http://www.adea.org/). The dental schools belong to a centralized dental association called the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). This group was formally called AADS. Dental schools require applicants to have completed the pre-dental curriculum prior to application. The minimum science preparation courses for admission into dental school, with a few exceptions, include the following:
In addition to these courses stated, many dental schools also recommends or requires a course in Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Microbiology, and a Behavior Science course (such as Psychology), Anatomy and Physiology.
For the student who expects to complete a degree in four years and go directly into dental school, the pre-dental curriculum including Organic Chemistry must be completed by the end of the junior year of college. The Dental Admission Test Program (DAT) requires the completion of one year of biology, one year of general chemistry and one year of organic chemistry. Physics and advanced biology are necessary for entrance into dental school, but will not be tested on the DAT. The typical four-year curriculum for a pre-dental student mirrors the curriculum of a premedical student. These courses serve as a common denominator between applicants and are also the foundation upon which students build once in a professional school. As noted above, the pre-dental curriculum given above should be considered the minimum science preparation for a health professions school. You may decide to take additional upper division biology and chemistry courses to strengthen your background in the sciences, especially if you select a major in the humanities or social sciences. Check the science course recommendations of the schools to which you are applying to assist in your course planning.
Dental schools are stressing a broad, general training at the undergraduate level. The CORE requirements of the College of Arts & Sciences at Saint Louis University include courses which satisfy non-science requirements. These courses include general psychology, composition and other courses which develop communication skills. Take more than the minimum CORE requirements in humanities and social sciences.
General Academic Preparation
Dental school admissions committees recognize the importance of a liberal arts education which includes a strong foundation in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and development of excellent communication skills.
Although the completion of a college degree may not be specifically required by a dental school, there is an expectation that the applicant has pursued some discipline in depth. Therefore typically the successful applicant has a four-year degree. Skills are developed through many avenues of study, such as in the natural sciences, in the humanities, and in the social and behavioral sciences. Development of effective written and oral communication skills are especially important for dental school applicants.
Selection of a Major
Professional schools do not select students based on the undergraduate major. The process of selecting a major should include consideration of interest and your individual strengths and weaknesses. The most important aspect of selecting a major is also considering what careers, other than a dental career, the major prepares you to enter. Think of the major as a backup plan. Successful Saint Louis University pre-dental students have completed majors in many disciplines, both in the sciences and the non-sciences. However, it is necessary for the pre-dental students to do well in their science courses to be adequately prepared and viewed favorably by the admission committees of dental schools for entrance into dental school. Click here to see sample curricula of majors.
The Successful Applicant
The ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) is the centralized application service for most US dental schools. For the schools utilizing AADSAS, you can obtain information about the application through the Internet at www.adea.org/dental_education_pathways/aadsas/pages/PDS.aspx. Texas residents wishing to apply to Texas dental schools must use the Texas Medical and Dental Application Service (TMDSAS), rather than AADSAS.
Avoid the common misperception that admissions committees seek some ideal combination of characteristics in the applicants they select for admission. Important aspects of the admission process include:
High level of scholastic and intellectual potential measured by overall and math/science GPAs, the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) scores and a Pre-Health Committee on Evaluations letter.
Personal qualities including leadership skills, motivation, perseverance, social maturity, curiosity, and sense of commitment deemed important in a dentist.
Knowledge of the dental profession, demonstrated by experience in a health care setting, awareness of current events related to the dental profession, and interaction with health care professionals. A great way to obtain this experience is to participate in the Center for Advanced Dental Education (CADE) Internship through the Pre-Professional Health Studies Office.
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