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Dentists must have a license in order to practice, and students must attend and graduate from a dental school that has been accredited by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation to be eligible for licensure. Along with completing a program, students must also pass exams. Many students enter a dental school after completing a bachelor's degree program in a related subject.

Prepare for and take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) a year before you anticipate entering dental school. The DAT is one of several measures of a person's potential for academic success in dental school. It is usually administered to students who have completed at least one year of college-level courses in biology and chemistry.

Apply for admission at least a year in advance. Most college students apply for dental school during their junior year.

Most dental schools require personal interviews with candidates to assess attributes such as desire to help people, ability to get along well with others, self-confidence, ability to meet challenges and capacity to work independently. The personal interview also allows you to ask questions about the school and its services.

Most dental schools participate in the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS). This simplifies the application process. Generally, only one application for admission needs to be completed. To initiate an application to any of the schools participating in AADSAS, a candidate must obtain an official Application Request brochure from his or her predental advisor, a participating dental school or by writing AADSAS,1625 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036-2212. If a particular school does not participate in AADSAS, the applicant should obtain application materials directly from the school.

The Dental School Curriculum

Dentistry combines a working knowledge of the basic sciences, technical skill and the art of communicating with people.  A dental education usually requires four years of college and four years of dental school. If you decide to go into one of the eight specialties, you'll need a minimum of two years of additional schooling.

The dental curriculum can be divided into three areas:

  • Basic health sciences, including anatomy, biochemistry, histology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology, with emphasis on dental aspects.
  • Application of these sciences, providing patient care in dental school clinics.
  • Practice management, including talking with patients, the use and management of dental office staff, business management, professional ethics and community health.

Dental schools grant doctoral degrees in dentistry. All dental programs in the United States are accredited.

Tuition, Expenses and Financial Assistance

In addition to tuition, the cost of a dental education includes books, fees, instruments and living expenses. Many dental students cover educational expenses through readily available loans; limited scholarships and grants are available for deserving students.

Financial assistance in the form of loans is readily available from a variety of sources One excellent source is a package of federal and private loans developed especially for dental students by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) and the American Student Dental Association (ASDA). Further information regarding this loan program may be obtained by calling, toll-free, 1-800-225-6783. Financial aid officers at each of the dental schools also may be able to assist you by providing information about other loan programs.

For more Information:

The American Dental Education Association publishes a valuable guide for students interested in a career in dentistry. Admission Requirements of U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools may be obtained by writing or calling:

American Dental Education Association (ADEA) 
1625 Massachusetts Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-2212
FAX: 202-667-0642

The American Student Dental Association publishes the ASDA Handbook, which contains useful information on requirements for application and admission to dental schools in the United States. ASDA also offers a predental membership to individuals interested in a dental career. Write or call:

American Student Dental Association (ASDA)
211 East Chicago Avenue
Suite 1160
Chicago, Illinois 60611-2616