If you are interested in helping patients, have strong communication skills, enjoy working with your hands as well as your mind, and want a career with responsibility, dentistry may be your calling.
The term “pre-dentistry” refers to a recommended set of classes and extra-curricular activities designed to prepare students for dental school. Students interested in pre-dentistry will still choose a major and complete the requirements for that degree.
Typically, students interested in a “pre-health” program choose a major from the hard sciences, such as chemistry, physics or biology. However, dental schools do not give preference to any particular major. While it is crucial for pre-dentistry students to have a strong background in the hard sciences, it is equally important for them to have a strong foundation in the social sciences and humanities.
All in all, dental schools are looking for well-educated and well-rounded individuals. Choose to major in something that you enjoy and would consider as an alternate career in the event you change your mind or are not accepted to dental school.
Though minors are not required, many students who wish to learn more about a specific subject outside of their major will elect to complete a minor. Pre-dental students whose chosen major is in the hard sciences are encouraged to complete the minor in Humanities or Social Sciences. Likewise, pre-dental students who choose another major may benefit from a minor in the hard sciences.
Pre-Dentistry Course Requirements
While the requirements for entry into Dental School vary from school to school, the requirements listed below are common to most dental schools. Students should contact the dental school(s) they wish to attend to find out the exact prerequisites for admission into that dental school, and they should work closely with their Kansas Wesleyan University advisor to create an appropriate academic plan.
Most dental schools require the following courses be taken before admission:
- One semester of college algebra
- One year of English Composition
- One year of general biology with labs
- One year of general chemistry with labs
- One year of organic chemistry with labs
- One year of physics with labs
Other common requirements include:
- One year of Human Anatomy and Physiology (with lab)
- One semester of Cellular Biology
The Dental Aptitude Test (DAT)
Most dental schools require that applicants take the Dental Aptitude Test (DAT). This test assesses a student’s knowledge and abilities in quantitative reasoning, perceptual ability, reading comprehension and the natural sciences (biological sciences, chemistry, and organic chemistry). Therefore, students should complete the pre-dental courses before taking the DAT.
Students can prepare for the DAT in a variety of ways, including taking a test preparatory course or by purchasing study materials individually. Students can be successful using either strategy, so you should weigh your personal needs when deciding on an approach.
The DAT is a computer-based test offered multiple times throughout year. Students should take the DAT in the year in which they are applying for dental school. Students are encouraged to register for the DAT early to ensure a seat at a testing location near them. Check the DAT Website for testing dates, locations, registration and fee-waiver information.
Preparing for the DAT is an intensive process. Students should keep books and study materials from previous pre-dental courses to assist in studying for the DAT. The DAT Website contains information regarding the topics covered in each section of the test. Most students use test preparation guides or sample tests offered through the DAT Website or other test preparation services such as Kaplan, DAT Achiever, Crack the DAT or Chad’s Prep.
The Application Process
The application process for dental school should begin the summer a year prior to the year of entry. For example, to enter dental school in Fall 2024, you should apply during the summer of 2023. Most dental schools belong to the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS). Once your application and supporting materials have been submitted and processed, the application service will forward your materials to the individual schools to which you are applying.
If a school remains interested in you after reviewing your (AADSAS) application, they will send a secondary application. The secondary application typically consists of letters of recommendation, an essay, an application fee and any other supplemental materials. While the secondary application is usually not due until winter, students should plan for its submission as soon as possible to secure an interview.
Because dental schools want to ensure that applicants have a genuine understanding of the dental profession, students should develop a mentor relationship with a dental professional and establish a consistent record of volunteer work or service to dental health programs. Students should consult with their academic advisor for information on local dentistry and for help in establishing dentistry volunteer connections.