Dentists diagnose and treat problems with teeth and tissues in the mouth, along with giving advice and administering care to help prevent future problems. They provide instruction on diet, brushing, flossing, the use of fluorides, and other aspects of dental care. They remove tooth decay, fill cavities, examine x rays, place protective plastic sealants on children’s teeth, straighten teeth, and repair fractured teeth. They also perform corrective surgery on gums and supporting bones to treat gum diseases. Dentists extract teeth and make models and measurements for dentures to replace missing teeth. They also administer anesthetics and write prescriptions for antibiotics and other medications. (bls.gov 2008-05-08)
Professional dental study typically involves a four-year program of graduate classroom instruction, lab work and hands-on patient treatment. Specialists and general dentists must be licensed by the state.
Students interested in pursuing a career in dentistry should:
- Spend time observing dentists in actual practice. This means more than asking questions at biannual visits. Dental schools want to know that you have an understanding of what is involved in the dental profession. If there is work available (paid or unpaid) in a dental office, use it as time to get to know the daily workings of a dentist and a dental office.
- Become familiar with the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) site. Almost all dental schools require students to apply through this service to be considered for admission. Requirements for admission vary from school to school, but most schools will list admission requirements on their website. Dental schools are competitive. In order to give yourself the greatest opportunity, research several schools that you are interested in and complete the pre-requisites for all of them.
- Take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) prior to starting the last year of your undergraduate course work. This test is required by most schools.
- Dental schools typically require letters of reference as part of the application process. Consider who you will ask to write a letter of recommendation for you. Most schools require representation from professional dentists as well as professors, instructors or advisors who can speak to both your academic ambition and ability, and your hands-on experience.
- Admission to a dental school is competitive, so take advantage of any coursework or experience that may give you an advantage. A minimum GPA or DAT score may be required by some schools, but attaining the minimum does not guarantee admission. Some schools will list statistics such as average GPA and DAT score for the last class admitted. Use these as a guideline for what it will take to be admitted.
- Pursue an undergraduate curriculum that includes many of the following courses. Dental schools do not require that students complete a specific major, however, you must complete at least 90 credits, including the required pre-requisite courses. Preference is given to students who will have completed a Bachelor's degree by the time they start dental school.
Courses required for admission by most dental schools**:
|Engl 111X, Engl 211X/213X|
|General chemistry with lab|
|Chem 105X, 106X|
|General biology with lab|
|Biol 115X, 116X|
|Organic chemistry||6-9||Chem 321, 322 (also Chem 324 if lab required)|
|Phys 103X & 104X or Phys 211X & 212X|
Courses RECOMMENDED by many schools (varies by school):
|Additional biology such as human anatomy and physiology, microbiology, genetics, embryology, cell biology, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, histology, immunobiology and biochemistry|
|Biol 111X, 112X, 303, 317, 342, 362, 417, 418, 425, 444, 445, 453, 458, 461, 465, 481|
|UAF core courses|
|Mathematics: calculus is recommended|
|Math 107X, 108, 200X, 262X or 272X|
|Comm 131X or 141X|
Other suggested electives:
|Art courses such as painting and sculpture||3-9||Art 105, 201, 211, 213|
|Business courses such as personnel management, accounting, and marketing||3-9||BA 151, 307, 326; Acct 261, 262|
|Psychology, sociology electives||3-9||Psy 101, 240; Soc 100X, 101, 242|
**Admission requirements vary by school. This chart was compiled by researching a majority of dental schools. It is important to check for the admission requirements of the specific school that you are interested in to be sure that you meet all of the pre-requisites required by that school. A course listed as recommended here may be required by your school of choice.
A UAF degree in either Biological Sciences or Chemistry (See the degree worksheets) will require many of the pre-dental courses. If the degree has room for electives, consider the suggested electives as well as courses related to dentistry offered through the Allied Health department.
Students whose career goal is dentistry, or who are considering this career choice, should contact a departmental advisor or the Academic Advising Center.