“Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth.” (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2020 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm (visited June 16, 2021).
Dentistry is a four-year professional program, which is followed by a 1-year residency for licensure in New York. The dental degree may be either DMD or DDS, depending on the program. Students attend dental school after they have completed an undergraduate degree or (rarely, a minimum of 90 semester hours toward a degree). Occasionally, those who enter after three years complete an undergraduate degree by applying their first year of dental schoolwork as 30 hours of elective credit toward an undergraduate degree.
Example Four-Year Academic Plan With Gap Year
Most popular path for Brockport students
Post-Graduation Timeline: Letters of reference should be submitted to the PPH Committee by June 1st. Students should aim to take the DAT in late spring or early summer, with an application submission in mid-June and PPH Committee Interview in late June/early July. Dental School interviews begin in early Fall for admission entry the following year.
a Pre-Dent is a program, not a major. A student should choose to major in a field he/she is passionate about and in which he/she will excel. The health professions requirements are also the foundation courses for a major in Biology, Biochemistry, or Chemistry.
Many dental schools no longer require/recommend calculus (especially Calculus II), but many science majors do, and by including these courses you keep open the option of eligibility for admission at all dental schools. Taking these courses also
demonstrates strong quantitative ability and the willingness to take the most rigorous courses. Statistics is also recommended by many schools. For example, Stony Brook University requires calculus I and either calculus II or statistics.
c Dental schools may not require advanced biology courses, but in the past, Brockport students who have completed the equivalent of BIO 315 and BIO 302 have done much better on the biological sciences section of the DAT than students who have completed only BIO 201 and BIO 202. Biochemistry (CHM 467) is also required or recommended at some schools, but BIO 310 may be sufficient. Students with room in their schedules may also want to consider taking Anatomy and Physiology courses and Microbiology, to ease the first year of dental school.
d While dentistry is a discipline based in the biological sciences, the practice of dentistry is a “people” profession based on communication skills and an understanding of human behavior. Prospective dental students are encouraged to take courses in psychology, sociology, public speaking, and the humanities to better interact with patients. These courses may also satisfy the General Education Program. You may also consider the Pre-Professional Health Minor.
e Physics I and II are required prior to matriculation at dental school, but (depending on your major requirements) may be scheduled after taking the DAT. Most dental schools do not require calculus-based physics (PHS 235/240), and algebra-based physics (PHS 205/210) may meet requirements. However, taking calculus I and II and calculus-based physics demonstrates strong quantitative ability and the willingness to take the most rigorous courses. Also, some majors (chemistry, biochemistry, and physics) do require calculus-based physics.
f Most dental schools require 6 credits of writing courses; another writing intensive course may satisfy this requirement, but courses with codes other than ENG may be questioned.
Notes: Some dental schools may have slightly different prerequisites—see web sites of individual dental schools for more information.
Dental School admissions committees may not recognize AP, CLEP, community college credits or study abroad credits as fulfilling these admissions requirements in science and mathematics; and generally, schools do not accept online courses in the sciences.
Academic Guidelines: GPA and DAT
Admission to dental school is competitive, and admissions committees are able to choose from among many talented students. The median cumulative GPA and DAT scores for the 2020 entering classes at SUNY Stonybrook are shown in the Table below:
How Competitive is it?
An overall GPA of 3.57 and science GPA of 3.48 (on a 4.0 scale) is the median GPA of admitted students for many dental schools. Almost 63% of admitted students had GPAs over 3.50. Less than 4% of admitted students had GPAs less than 3.00.
The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is required for admission to dental school. It is a standardized, computer-based exam that consists of four sections: a Survey of Natural Sciences (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry), Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Reasoning, and Perceptual Ability. Two summary scores are reported, one on academic subjects and one for perceptual ability, as well as scores on individual sections. The current (2020) national average for all test takers is approximately 19.3, with the DAT scores of admitted students being significantly higher at 20.4. It is typically taken after the required natural science courses have been completed. Preparation for the DAT consists of self-study and taking DAT practice tests or participating in a formal DAT test preparation course. Students can register online.
Non-Academic Guidelines for Admission
Admission to dental school requires more than high grades! Excellent personal characteristics, strong interpersonal skills, cultural competency, demonstrated manual dexterity, evidence of leadership potential, and the desire to serve others are all important. Each student is unique and prepares to apply in his/her own way, but here are some possibilities.
- Acquire a minimum of 100 hours of experience in the field of clinical dentistry, by volunteering, working, or shadowing in a dentistry practice or in a clinic situation either in a hospital or dental school. The nature of this experience should consist of gaining knowledge of the day-to-day aspects of patient care. Exploration of the field helps students make a more informed decision regarding their suitability for a career in dentistry; and admissions committees feel that experience in clinical dentistry gives applicants a more realistic impression of the day-to-day responsibilities involved in the practice of dentistry.
- Participate in organizations that serve others, within or outside healthcare.
Participate in leadership opportunities, such as serving as a peer mentor; becoming a leader in a Brockport
student club; or through participation in Brockport’s Leadership Development Program.
- Consider exploring research opportunities with science faculty members. Credit for research can be arranged for BIO 424, 493 or CHM 399, for example. Research experience as an undergraduate is a plus but do it only if you are interested. Having this experience is not a deal maker—although many successful applicants have participated in a research project.
Diversity in Dentistry
Dental schools seek to recruit a diverse class of students, including students from groups underrepresented in dentistry, including students from groups underrepresented in dentistry, students who have been disadvantaged by socioeconomic factors, students with disabilities, and first-generation students. The ADEA is particularly encouraging African American, Latino/a, and Native American students, as these groups make up 25 percent of the population, but only 12 percent of dental school graduates. Students may find information and support at American Dental Education Association. There are summer programs (such as SHPEP) to help college students who would bring diversity to dentistry prepare for application. Individual dental schools also sponsor summer enrichment programs. Students may also contact their pre-dental advisors, and individual dental schools, for more information.
The Application Process
Applications for dental school are submitted through the centralized, online Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) Applications should be submitted in the early summer preceding the year for which a student is seeking admission. Since many dental schools have rolling admissions, it is in a student’s best interest to apply early (after June 1st and before July 15th). Submitting your application close to the deadline for regular admission means you are competing for far fewer spots. Students applying to dental school should consult the ADEA Official Guide to dental Schools for school-specific application information.
Some Dental schools may offer early admission decisions which allow students to be accepted early in their undergraduate years. Students accepted for early admission are guaranteed admission to the program if they maintain appropriate GPA overall and in science and achieve higher than a particular score on the DAT exam. For example, the University at Buffalo Dental School offers this option. These programs are very competitive, accepting few students.
Letters of Evaluation and the Committee Letter/Interview
Applicants typically obtain letters of evaluation from science faculty members, faculty members from the applicant’s major department, research supervisors, dentists, volunteer coordinators, etc. Additional letters may help to present a broader perspective of you as a student or person (for example, from faculty of other academic departments, coaches, activities outside the college setting. Information about the non-academic character of a student can be especially useful, as academic information is already in the application. Information sought from evaluators is described in the “AAMC Guide for Writing Letters of Recommendation”, found under “content” in the Blackboard group for Pre-Professional Health students. (Even though the Guide was developed for medical school applicants, it is applicable to students applying to dental school as well.) Feel free to provide it to your letter-writers.
Many schools require or strongly recommend a “committee letter” in addition to these individual letters. At Brockport, obtaining a committee letter requires an interview with members of the PPH Advisory Committee, following a process described in the Blackboard group for PPH students. The committee letter of evaluation is based in part on an interview with you. The interview is used both to evaluate you as a candidate for dental school and to coach you on your interview performance. In order to get a committee letter, the committee requires that all letters be sent directly to the committee chair (and that the letters include at least two from science faculty and one additional letter, preferably from an experience in a healthcare environment). All letters should be accompanied by the Letter of Evaluation Form that can be downloaded from the Blackboard group for Pre-Professional Health students, then completed and given to your evaluator. Letters of evaluation for students seeking a committee letter should be sent with the form by mail (US Postal Service or Campus mail) or email to the address/email at the bottom of the form.
Dental School Interviews
Dental schools usually require personal, on-campus interviews. Schools contact selected candidates to arrange the interviews. Interviews vary by school; applicants should check with the schools to which they have applied for the interview timeline. The interview is an important part of the selection process, and candidates should prepare well for it. Some schools are using newer formats, such as mini multi interviews (MMI) for their interviews. Students should check with their Pre-Health advisor for information about this format. Practice interviews are available through the Career Services in Rakov Center, should a student desire additional practice.
Criminal Background Checks
The AADSAS application asks applicants whether they have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, as well as whether they have been subject to disciplinary action while attending college. The applicant has the opportunity to describe what was learned through the experience. This information is communicated to the dental schools. Students should make careful decisions throughout their undergraduate years, since incidents of drug and/or alcohol use or possession, academic dishonesty, and others, can have negative consequences for a dental school application. Most dental schools conduct a Criminal Background Check on all admitted students, and some require forms from Student Affairs regarding college-level disciplinary actions. Students found to have been dishonest on their applications are not admitted or are dismissed. The lesson from this is that you must disclose everything in your application: the consequence of not disclosing is greater that the consequence of disclosing! Your postings on social media websites (e.g. Facebook) may also be checked.
- Explorehealthcareers, a website that provides reliable information about many possible careers within the area of health.
- American Dental Education Association
- Associated American Dental School Application Service
- American Dental Association
- Pre-Professional Health
Pre-Professional Health group on Blackboard for current students. Contact Preprofessional Health at email@example.com to be added to the group. Include your goal of veterinary medicine in your email, so that you are placed in the correct subgroup.
Dr. Laurie Cook