7 Requirements for Dental School (With FAQs)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 28, 2021 | Published February 25, 2020

Updated September 28, 2021

Published February 25, 2020

Dentists are responsible for the overall dental hygiene and wellness of their patients. In addition to administering regular teeth cleaning and preventative care, they also examine, diagnose and treat dental issues through extractions, fillings and surgeries. If you're considering a career as a dentist, you'll likely want to know the requirements for dental school. In this article, we list the steps for getting into dental school, plus answer some common questions about prerequisites and other education requirements.

Related: Learn About Being a Dentist

Prerequisites and requirements for dental school

Becoming a dentist takes time and patience, but with the right expectations, you'll know exactly what lies ahead and how to achieve your goals. Much like other medical professions, dentistry takes years of schooling and hands-on experience. Preparing for the appropriate college courses and internships will help increase your outcome for success.

Here are the requirements needed for dental school:

1. Complete a bachelor's degree

As you work toward getting your bachelor's degree, enroll in courses that count as pre-dental coursework. Many of the courses you'll need to take in college are prerequisite science courses. Depending on the dental program, you'll likely need eight credit hours of physics, biology, general chemistry and organic chemistry. It's best to meet with your academic adviser to guide your graduation plan.

Related: ​​Degrees and Specializations in Dentistry You Can Start Pursuing Before Dental School

2. Job shadow dentists

As you continue to fulfill your degree obligations, you'll eventually need to job shadow a few dentists before applying to dental school. Most dental programs require applicants to have 100 hours of experience job shadowing multiple dentists so you can see how different offices operate.

Start by asking your own dentist for this opportunity. From there, see if you can get the names of other dentists who may be interested in helping you accomplish this pre-dental school requirement. You might also consider joining a dental school preparatory program or mentoring program, like the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP).

Related: Tips for Putting Job Shadowing on a Resume (With Examples)

3. Get involved in extracurriculars

You can strengthen your dental school application by signing up for clubs and other endeavors that show you're a well-rounded and dedicated student. Research your local options and consider joining any biology or health-related clubs. You should also contact your science professors to see if they need research assistants.

4. Join the Student National Dental Association

In addition to other organizations, you may benefit from joining the Student National Dental Association. Besides bolstering your dental school application, it also will connect you to other dental students and practicing dentists at chapter events. Networking with other professionals in the field is a great way to share your career goals and interests, in addition to gaining more insight into the dental school application process.

Related: How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist? A Career Guide to Dentistry

5. Take the Dental Admission Test (DAT)

Once you've committed to the admissions process, you can take the 4.5-hour DAT after your junior year of college. Passing the exam is a dental school requirement and encompasses the following sections:

  1. Survey of the natural sciences: 100-question section on biology and chemistry

  2. Perceptual ability: 90-question section on spatial reasoning

  3. Reading comprehension: 50-question section on general topics

  4. Quantitative reasoning: 40-question section on statistics, data analysis, algebra and probability

To pass the DAT, you'll need to properly prepare ahead of time. If you don't pass on the first try, you'll have two more chances after 90 days. A DAT score of at least 19 appeals to most dental schools.

You should devote at least three months of study before taking the exam to help create consistent study habits, as well as consider some of these other tips:

Prioritize the most difficult sections

If you're worried about statistics and math-related problems, you should focus first on improving your knowledge of these subjects. Addressing the tougher topics first will give you a great sense of accomplishment and help improve confidence on other topics.

Research the perceptual ability test

This is a notoriously difficult section of the exam. You may want to take practice exams to get a feel for the structure and see how well you do.

Study complex passages

You should expect to see complex sentences and arguments in the DAT exam. Test prep guides provide examples of what these look like.

Take practice tests

Many online resources offer free practice exams, or you can pay for a more detailed version of the DAT practice test. Taking practice tests will help you know what to expect on exam day and how long it’ll take you to finish.

Get to exam day early

Plan to arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes early to account for any traffic delays. You'll need two forms of ID, including one that’s government-issued.

Related: Top 10 Study Skills and Techniques

6. Create a competitive dental school application

Another requirement for dental school is a competitive application. Spend time researching the schools you want to attend, and consider the programs’ location and cost when narrowing your top choices. Your college adviser can provide you with a list of reputable schools, and you might want to think about touring some.

Many students start their dental school application process a year before graduation. Here are some things you'll need to include in your application:

  • The application form

  • An official college transcript

  • A personal essay

  • Four letters of recommendation

  • A resume or CV

  • Your DAT scores

  • Proof of your job shadowing hours

  • An application fee, in addition to possible supplemental fees

Related: How To Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (With Examples)

7. Complete an admissions interview

Once you've applied to dental school, you may be contacted for an interview. Prepare for your interview by thinking about your personal strengths and communication skills. Interviewers tend to ask questions about your personality and desire to help others.

Practicing your responses with a friend beforehand may help you relax during the interview. You should find out if you were accepted into your program of choice shortly after your interview.

Related: 41 Dental Interview Questions To Help You Prepare for Your Next Job

Dental school FAQs

The following are answers to some frequently asked questions about requirements for dental school:

Can I get into dental school without a college degree?

No. While your post-secondary education doesn’t need to be dental field-related, you’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree to apply to dental school.

What GPA do you need for dental school?

To be accepted in a competitive dental program, you’ll want to maintain a college GPA of at least 3.2.

What is the best major for dental school?

Biology, chemistry and pre-med are helpful majors for dental school candidates and may result in needing to take fewer courses in dental school. Keep in mind it typically takes four years to pursue a bachelor’s degree and another four years to complete dental school.

Read more: How To Become a Dentist

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