Pre-Dentistry Preparation at UHMānoa
(Text compiled from the American Dental Education Association website, the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, the Dental Admission Test Candidate’s Guide, NAAHP’s Medical Professions Admissions Guide,and the UHM 2011-2012 Catalog.)
Dentistry programs offered in Hawai'i: None
Dentists are health care professionals whose primary responsibility is maintaining the health of patients’ oral cavity and its adjacent structures.
Dentists provide preventive care and diagnose and treat problems affecting both hard and soft tissues, including teeth, jaw, lips, gingival tissue, and tongue. They also perform medical procedures such as surgery, laser surgery, and tissue grafts. Dentists improve their patients’ appearances through cosmetic dental procedures, which require finely attuned aesthetic sensibilities. Dentists provide a wide variety of services in many community arenas and must be comfortable interacting with people of all ages, cultures, and personalities.
Most dentists become general practitioners and work in private practice, renting or owning an office and employing an average of four employees. Some, however, work in group practices or hospitals. Some dentists also teach, conduct research, or work in public health.
In addition to General Dentistry, there are currently nine clinical fields in dentistry:
- Dental Public Health: the control and prevention of dental disease through organized community efforts
- Endodontics: the study and treatment of tissues affecting the vitality of the teeth (dental pulp).
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: the study, diagnosis, and sometimes treatment of diseases in the oral and maxillofacial region.
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: diagnostic imaging
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: extractions, implants, and facial surgery
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics: the straightening of teeth due to developmental abnormalities that affect function and appearance
- Pediatric Dentistry: dentistry for children and adolescents
- Periodontics: the study and treatment of diseases of the periodontium, and dental implants
- Prosthodontics: the replacement of missing teeth with fixed or removable substitutes
Related Professions: dental assistant, dental hygienist, and dental laboratory technician.
Becoming a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) requires 6 to 10 years of education:
- Bachelors Degree (~4 years);
- Dental School (4 years);
- Specialty (~2+ years).
Many dental schools offer combined degree programs, either both the D.M.D. and the D.D.S., or one of those plus another professional degree, such as the MPH (public health), MBA (business administration), MS, or Ph.D.
The first two years of dental school concentrate on studying the biological sciences, although some programs allow students to interact with patients almost from the start. Years three and four usually focus on clinical training in a variety of settings and often include instruction in business management. Upon graduation, dentists can choose to enter programs in one of the specializations.
Earning a D.M.D. or D.D.S. qualifies graduates to take state licensing exams; all dentists must be licensed to practice.
Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the dental schools you are interested in attending.
The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to dental schools:
BIOL 171/171Lab and 172/172Lab
Introductory Biology I and II
CHEM 161/161Lab and 162/162Lab
General Chemistry I and II
CHEM 272/272Lab and 273/273Lab
Organic Chemistry I and II
PHYS 151/151Lab and 152/152Lab
College Physics I and II
1-4 courses, including Composition
Additional requirements may include courses such as biochemistry, calculus, psychology, and upper division biology, among others.
Tuition, as high as it is, covers only a fraction of the cost of educating a dental student, which means that each new student represents a huge investment by the school. Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the curriculum and are likely to become good dentists.
Are you capable of completing the dental curriculum?
Admissions committees are looking for students who have:
- completed the prerequisites
- a high overall GPA
- a high science/math GPA
- performed well on the DAT
- balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic
Are you likely to become a good dentist? Will you contribute to the field of dentistry?
Admissions committees look for students who have:
- excellent oral and written communication skills
- demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
- high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
- demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
- experience in the field and with what dentistry entails
- good manual dexterity and a strong sense of aesthetics
- a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
- a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
- strong letters of recommendation
There are now about 70 public and private dental schools in the U.S. and Canada, each one unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths.
Although there are resources that “rank” schools (The Gourman Report, U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review, etc.), the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants. More important is whether there is a good match between you and your school.
To find schools that are good a fit for you (PAC peer advisors can help with this process):
- Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
- Start with a list of all schools you would consider attending, which usually includes all 70+ schools;
- Using the current ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality (PAC offers a list of 7 factors to consider, found here: Choosing a School Handout);
- Once you have your DAT scores, create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools on your Long List into “Reach,” “Match,” and “Safety.” Next, rank the schools by preference, and then decide how many schools you can afford to apply to. Be sure to apply to schools in all 3 categories (“Reach,” “Match,” and “Safety.”);
- If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to Admissions Directors, and chat with students.
Overview: All dental schools require that applicants take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). The DAT assesses your knowledge and skills in Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning. The test requires ~4 hours to complete, and entails ~280 multiple choice questions. The DAT is administered in a computer-based format and is offered almost any day of the year.
Scoring: Each of the four sections receives its own score on a range of 1-30, with 30 being highest. The four scores are averaged to create a composite score using the same range. Scores of 17 are average; scores of 17 or higher are considered competitive for most dental schools.
Preparation: Your most important preparation for the DAT is your undergraduate courses (not only the prerequisites for dental school), many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills.
Official Test Preparation Material: DAT tutorial on DAT website
Preparation material and sample tests on DAT website
Prometric's Test Drive on http://www.prometric.com/TestDrive/default.htm
PAC offers a more detailed summary of the DAT here: DAT Exam Breakdown Sheet
There are three general steps in applying to dental schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview.
1. Primary applications must be filed with Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), which is a centralized application system. Once the application is complete, AADSAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated.
2. Secondary applications are specific to individual dental schools, and are sent to applicants by individual schools after they have received the AADSAS application. Some but not all schools screen applicants before requesting secondary applications. Secondary applications commonly request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation.
3. Interviews: After reviewing applicants’ complete application packet (including both primary and secondary applications), dental schools invite promising applicants to interview. Applicants are responsible for all costs of interviewing, including airfare, lodging, professional attire, and meals.
Traffic Rules: Although the application process varies from school to school, ADEA has established “traffic rules” to ensure fairness for all concerned. The rules, available online, stipulate both schools’ and applicants’ rights and responsibilities in the application process. Before applying, all applicants should be familiar with the traffic rules found on the ADEA website: http://www.adea.org/dental_education_pathways/aadsas/Applicants/Documents/Traffic%20Rules-Applicants.pdf
WICHE: Hawai’i residents are eligible to participate in the Professional School Exchange Program (PSEP), a service of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). In the summer of their junior year, Hawai’i residents must apply to the WICHE program for financial support. WICHE applications become available in July.
- The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
- Most application questions can be answered by reading the Official Guide to Dental Schools by ADEA.
- Contact individual schools’ Admissions Offices to find out how they handle:
- Advanced Placement (AP) credits
- International Baccalaureate (IB) credits
- College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
- military credits
- courses taken at a community college
- non-U.S. coursework
- courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
- residency issues
- time limits on prerequisite science courses
UHMānoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to dental schools.
|UHM's Pre-Dental Associationemail@example.com|
|American Dental Education Association (ADEA)||www.adea.org|
|American Dental Association (ADA)||www.ada.org|
|Dental Admissions Test (DAT)||http://www.ada.org/dat.aspx|
|Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS)||https://portal.aadsasweb.org/|
|Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)||www.wiche.edu|
|American Student Dental Association (ASDA)||www.asdanet.org|
|Official Guide to Dental Schools by ADEA||available in PAC|
|Preparing for Graduate School by the Honors Program||http://preparingforgraduateschool.weebly.com/|