Dentistry is the branch of the healing arts and sciences devoted to maintaining oral health.  Oral health can have a serious impact on systemic health and drives the expansion of new professional opportunities each year. As such, dentistry is a dynamic health profession that offers opportunities to become a successful, highly respected member of the community.

Profession Overview

Profession Overview

Dentists typically do the following:

  • Remove decay from teeth and fill cavities
  • Repair cracked or fractured teeth and remove teeth
  • Place sealants or whitening agents on teeth
  • Administer anesthetics to keep patients from feeling pain during procedures
  • Prescribe antibiotics or other medications
  • Examine x rays of teeth, gums, the jaw, and nearby areas in order to diagnose problems
  • Make models and measurements for dental appliances, such as dentures, to fit patients
  • Teach patients about diets, flossing, the use of fluoride, and other aspects of dental care

Important Qualities:

  • Communication skills: Dentists must have excellent communication skills. They must be able to communicate effectively with patients, dental hygienists, dental assistants, and receptionists.
  • Detail oriented: Dentists must be detail oriented so that patients receive appropriate treatments and medications. They also must pay attention to the shape and color of teeth and to the space between them. For example, they may need to closely match a false tooth with a patient’s other teeth.
  • Dexterity: Dentists must be good at working with their hands. They work with tools in a limited area.
  • Leadership skills: Most dentists work in their own practice. This requires them to manage and lead a staff.
  • Organizational skills: Strong organizational skills, including the ability to keep accurate records of patient care, are critical in both medical and business settings.
  • Patience: Dentists may work for long periods of time with patients who need special attention. Children and patients with a fear of dental work may require a lot of patience.
  • Physical stamina: Dentists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as bending over patients for long periods.
  • Problem-solving skills: Dentists need strong problem-solving skills. They must evaluate patients’ symptoms and choose the appropriate treatments.

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook Dentist

Learn more about Dentistry:

Admissions Criteria

Admissions Criteria


This is a list of common pre-dental requirements and the Kalamazoo College course equivalents. The course prerequisites vary across programs. This list does not include all courses that may be required by dental schools. Additionally, schools have differing policies for accepting AP/IB credits to fulfill prerequisites. Students are responsible for verifying the prerequisite coursework and policies of the schools to which they plan to apply.

Prerequisites for students starting at K Fall 2023 or before.

Prerequisites for students starting at K Fall 2024 or after.

The courses listed are for ADEA-participating schools and colleges. For a comprehensive list by school, please see the ADEA AADSAS® Participating Dental Schools Required and Recommended Courses resource. Other helpful resources include ASDA’s Guide for Predental StudentsADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, and individual school websites.

GPA and Extracurricular Experience

Admission to dental school is competitive and rigorous. The DAT is scored on a scale from 1 to 30, and the mean score for dental school enrollees is about 20. For the 2019 entering class, the mean overall GPA was 3.57 while the mean science GPA was a 3.48, and the average DAT score was 20.7 according to the ADEA. Dental school applicants must demonstrate a thorough exploration of the field through shadowing, assisting and volunteering activities. It is also very helpful to demonstrate manual dexterity through classes in the arts such as learning an instrument, pottery, painting, etc. Getting research experience is also of great value. For a sample timeline of a pre-dental student, see the ADEA’s timeline to apply.

Dental Admission Test (DAT)

Ideally, the DAT should be taken 3 months in advance of when you plan to submit your application. Students are required to the read the DAT Guide before submitting an application to test.

Length: 4 hours and 30 minutes

Sections: There are four sections  Survey of the Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning

Scores: Scores range from 1-30.

Rules and Regulations:

  • You can only take the test once every 90 days.
  • You can only take the test three times, no more unless you get special permission from the ADA.

Cost: The registration fee is $475 (DAT 2020) which includes the exam and scores sent to the dental schools listed during registration. Sending scores to additional schools after the initial DAT application costs $45 each. Requests for ADA Partial Fee Waivers can be made starting on January 1 and applicants should apply ASAP.

School Selection

School Selection

Number of schools: Students typically apply to between 8-12 dental schools.

Factors to consider:

  • Location I: Students have the best chance of admission at the public dental schools in their state of residency. Out side of your in-state school(s), consider private schools and other state public schools that accept a reasonable number of out-of-state residents.
  • Location II: Urban vs. rural setting, proximity to family, recreational opportunities, cost of living, etc.
  • Mission Statements: You should look for schools with mission statements that fit with your own goals.
  • Curriculum: Seek out information about the curriculum and consider how it fits with your learning style.
  • Cost: Consider tuition and type of financial aid available

Additional resources for school selection:

Application Overview

Application Overview

Application Timing

Since the application cycle for dental school takes a full year, students should apply in the year prior to when they plan to matriculate. For example, students who wish to go straight from their undergraduate degree to dental school would apply in the spring/summer of their junior year (as long as all prerequisites are complete at that time). Students who apply in their senior year would have a gap year and matriculate in the year following their graduation.

Primary Applications

The Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) is a centralized application service sponsored and administered by the ADEA. Nearly all U.S. dental schools participate in AADSAS. However, students applying to Texas dental schools must apply through the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). Applications for both AADSAS and TMDSAS are reviewed on a rolling basis. We recommend applying as early in the cycle as possible.

  • Centralized Application Service: AADSAS – Associated American Dental School Application Service application opens in early June.
  • Number of Participating Schools: 67 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico
  • Cost: $259 which includes one dental school designation. Each additional school is $112.
  • Fee Assistance? Yes, through the AADSAS Fee Assistance Program, which includes a waiver for all AADSAS fees for the first 3 dental school designations on your application. 
  • Application Requirements:
    • Biographical information
    • Colleges/coursework information
    • DAT scores
    • Personal statements
      • Personal Statement Prompt: “In your personal statement, you will explain why you want to pursue a dental career.” 4,500 character limit
    • Recommendation letters
      • Dental schools typically require between 3-4 recommendation letters. The Careers in Health and Medicine office recommends at least one of your letters be from a science faculty member and one be from a PI or research supervisor (if you participated in research). The other letters should be made up of professional references who can write compellingly about your personal qualities that will contribute to a successful career in dentistry. Some schools may require a letter of recommendation from a dentist. Students should check each school’s requirements to ensure you have the required letters.
      • AADSAS allows you to submit up to four letters. Individual dental schools also sometimes ask for additional letters of evaluation separate from the AADSAS application. A Health Sciences Advisory Committee letter counts as 3 recommendation letters in AADSAS, regardless of the number of individual letters attached. Health Sciences Advisory Committee letters are strongly recommended, although not required, for dental schools.
  • Resources:
    • AADSAS Instructions – Students should read the Instruction Manual in its entirety before beginning the application


After submitting the primary application, and secondary applications where required, students may receive interview offers any time between August-April in the year preceding matriculation. The interview is one of the most important elements in the application process. When a school invites you to an interview, they are indicating an interest in selecting you. The interview gives both of you the opportunity to exchange information to determine if you are a good “fit” for each other.

Dental schools require personal interviews with applicants to assess qualities such as self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and ability to overcome challenges. Be prepared to discuss why you wish to pursue a career in dentistry and the experiences that have motivated you.