Overview of Profession

Dentistry is an exciting career with a great deal of flexibility. Dental school graduates can explore many options besides traditional private practice, including dental surgery, teaching, research, and even working in humanitarian organizations like Dentists Without Borders. There are many reasons to choose a career in dentistry. A strong salary, a flexible balance between work and personal/family time, and the respect of your community are only a few reasons to embrace a dental career. According to the National Association for Advisors for the Health Professions, the U.S. News & World Report lists dentistry as the #1 profession in its “100 Best Jobs” list in 2013, and the #1 health profession in 2014 (NAAHP, 2014). With so many options, it’s easy to see why so many students are choosing to earn a DDS degree. As of June 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average salary for a Dentist was $154,640. For more information about the dental profession, visit

Undergraduate Preparation

Though entry into most DDS programs does not require a bachelor’s degree, it is highly recommended. Most applicants complete undergraduate degrees before attending schools of dentistry. The majority of dental schools require at least 90 credit hours, which typically include 6 hours of English, 8 hours of biology, 16 credits of chemistry (8 in general and 8 in organic,) 8 hours of physics, and 3 hours of biochemistry. All programs have mathematics requirements, usually through Calculus I or II. Also, many dental schools require human anatomy. In addition, most schools recommend taking courses in psychology and the humanities. Prerequisites vary among schools so students interested in specific schools should check those universities’ websites for their requirements. A minimum GPA of 3.0 is required for admission into dental school, though the average GPA of accepted applicants is typically 3.5 and higher. Additionally, most programs require a grade of C or higher in these prerequisite classes. Please refer to Appendix A: Recommendation Prerequisites for Healthcare Careers, where a list of requirements may be found.

In addition to course prerequisites, shadowing is an important admission requirement for entrance into dentistry programs, with most schools recommending between 100 to 150 hours of shadowing. Applicants will also need to request letters of recommendation from professors who have taught them and can attest to their abilities and work ethic. Almost all programs will require one of the letters of recommendation to be written by a licensed dentist with whom the student has worked. It is proper etiquette to write a thank you note to the professors that write your evaluations. In addition, the ability to perform and familiarity with certain techniques may be expected, such as proficient cognitive, motor, and observational skills.

Application Process

Before the application process can begin, applicants must preregister and take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). The DAT is a multiple-choice exam that assesses a students proficiency in the biological and chemical sciences as well as their perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning. The DAT contains 40 biology questions, 30 general chemistry questions, and 30 organic chemistry questions. There are also 90 perceptual ability questions, 50 reading comprehension questions, and 40 quantitative reasoning questions. The DAT is typically taken in the spring semester of a students junior year. More information about the DAT can be found at


Applications for all DDS programs are centralized into one common application called the ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service. The AADSAS collects admission information such as personal statements, DAT scores, and letters of recommendation. Once received, these materials are verified and sent to each school of your choice. The ADEA AADSAS accepts up to 4 letters of recommendation but at least 3 are required. Another component of the AADSAS is the personal statement. The AADSAS requires a one-page statement detailing your reasons for applying to dental school. Other areas to include are personal experiences during job shadowing, special talents, and obstacles you have overcome and how they have influenced your choice to pursue a career in dentistry. The personal essay is a very important part of the application and should be carefully written and reviewed by your major advisor or pre-health committee member. Additional strategies to strengthen your application may be found in this clip Additional information about the AADSAS may be found at


The application process should begin well before applying to programs. In this regard, you may use the timeline provided in Appendix B: Timeline for Medical School Applicants as a guide for when you should be completing experiences necessary for your applications, noting a few differences specific to dentistry. In this connection, applicants should complete the AADSAS (including letters of recommendation and a personal statement) beginning June 1st, and ending in late August; however, early applications have a greater chance of success. Secondary applications should be completed as soon as applicants receive them. Interview season typically lasts from August to November. Acceptance of notification for dental schools begins December 1st. More information on the application process may be found at: