Advancements in medical science and technology make this an exciting time to become a dentist. Dentistry’s evolution prompts the need for extensive student education. If you’re interested in becoming a dentist, take the following steps to a satisfying career that keeps your patients smiling.
Requirements for dental school admission in the United States are similar to medical school admissions’ requirements. Answers to how to become a dentist start with the fulfillment of a bachelor’s degree.
Almost all dental schools require an undergraduate degree. Many prefer a science or mathematics major, but others are open to satisfactory completion of a liberal arts degree. As long as you take required pre-requisite courses in biology, chemistry, and math and get good grades in these courses, a prospective dental school admissions committee probably won’t express concerns about an undergrad English major. However, a degree in math, biology, or chemistry may help prepare the prospective candidate for the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) if the school requires it.
What is the Dental Admissions Test?
Questions about how to become a dentist almost always involve how to do well on the DAT. Most dental schools require prospective students to take the DAT approximately a year before the anticipated dental school year start date. Most schools recommend taking the DAT sooner when possible.
However, taking the DAT too early may be counter-productive to achieving your admissions goal. The dental school’s admissions committee may require a new DAT if you took the test three or more years ago.
Performance on the DAT assesses the student’s scientific aptitude and overall academic ability. DAT scores are an essential part of getting admitted to the most competitive dental schools. DAT practice tests or courses can help to prepare for the exam if you need a refresher course. Otherwise, review pre-requisite courses to prepare for the DAT.
What Pre-Requisite Courses are Needed to Become a Dentist?
Knowing how to become a dentist requires earning enough credits and good grades in pre-requisite courses. Dental schools may require slight differences in required pre-requisite coursework. If you need information about how to become a dentist, check the dental school’s required courses to complete during your undergraduate career.
For instance, Tufts Dental School requires the following courses:
- at least two semesters (three quarters or eight credits) of Biology;
- one semester (one quarter or three credits) in upper-level Biology;
- two semesters (three quarters or eight credits) in Inorganic Chemistry;
- one semester (two quarters or four credits) in Organic Chemistry;
- two semesters (three quarters or eight credits) in Physics;
- one semester (one quarter or three credits) in Biochemistry.
Prospective Tufts Dental School applicants must take all lab sections for science pre-requisite courses, with the exception of Biochemistry and/or upper-level Biology. In addition:
- Students must complete pre-requisite coursework at a four-year university or college with a bachelor’s program in the pre-requisite subject.
- Coursework taken at a community college won’t be accepted.
- Pass/fail credits aren’t accepted in pre-requisite coursework. All pre-requisite courses should be taken for a letter grade. Students should earn a “B” grade or better in these required classes.
- Tufts also requires at least one semester in a writing-intensive Social Science or Humanities course, such as Women’s Studies, History, Government, English, Comparative Literature, or Philosophy.
How Do I Submit a Dental School Application?
Many dental schools in the United States use the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service, or AADSAS, to collect prospective students’ dental school applications. If your prospective dental school subscribes to the service, you can submit an application between June and January of most years.
After you submit an application to dental school, the admissions committee conducts interviews. In order to submit an application, fill out the enter AADSAS form:
- Include a personal statement that communicates your desire to become a dentist.
- Submit only official transcripts from colleges/universities attended, including study abroad or junior year away programs at other schools.
- Update your transcripts if necessary before the conclusion of your fall term on the ADEA website.
- Obtain at least two evaluation letters from your professors.
- Request a third evaluation letter that describes your dental internship experience, if any, or a pre-professional committee letter (composite).
- Submit any other letters of recommendation or evaluation from employers or professions via AADSAS. You may submit up to four evaluation or recommendation letters with your application.
- Don’t submit documents that aren’t requested by the dental school admissions committee.
- Pay the application fee required by your prospective dental school and submit the application.
What Courses Will I Take in Dental School?
Preparing for how to become a dentist involves graduate coursework. After you’re accepted to dental school, you’re expected to live, eat, and sleep dentistry:
In the first two years of dental school, most students take required classes that involve molecular and cellular characteristics of human organ systems. During this period, the dental student is introduced to technical dental courses, including the ethics of dentistry.
For example, a first-year student at the University of North Carolina’s School of Dentistry is expected to complete courses in dental biochemistry, general histology, applied dental materials, articulation and occlusion. It’s possible to take courses in geriatric dentistry, orthodontics, pharmacology, clinical endodontics, and pediatric dentistry at this time.
In the third and fourth years of dental school, you will focus on the physical applications of dentistry. You’ll engage in dentistry rotations, such as working in the comprehensive dental care clinic or hospital dentistry practicum.
You’re likely to be instructed and mentored while performing work on real patients. Depending on your dental school of choice, you’ll practice dentistry techniques in a hospital or an office setting. Practice is essential to earning your DDS degree. When you become a practicing dentist, you’ll appreciate the practical part of your dental education. It’s important preparation.
How to Become a Dentist – Conclusion
As you can see, grades count in your quest to become a dentist. The basics of how to become a dentist involve doing well in high school, getting admitted to a competitive four-year college or university, and earning good grades in dental school or medical school pre-requisite courses. DAT scores are a key consideration by dental school admissions committees.
Don’t forget the importance of practical and interactive learning as you prepare for a dentistry career. Internships are an important consideration as you prepare for dental school and evaluations of your professionals and employers count.