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How to Apply to Dental School: What To Know

Applying to dental school takes time to do well and typically costs a hefty fee, though time and cost will vary depending on the school(s) to which you apply. That said, the effort you put in to get an offer from an accredited dental school is well worth it. 

You’ll need a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) or DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) degree in order to practice dentistry or any of its specialties like orthodontics and oral surgery. To become a dental assistant, hygienist, or laboratory technician, you need different (less intensive) degrees.

With a degree from dental school and a dental license from your state’s regulatory agency, you can cultivate a career that’s both fulfilling and rewarding. Here’s what you need to know about applying to dental school:

Who Can Apply to Dental School?

Anyone can apply to dental school, but there are some prerequisites that you’ll need to complete before applying. While an undergraduate degree is not required for dental school, it is recommended, and most dental students do have four years of college already under their belts. 

While many obtain a bachelor’s degree in a science field, doing so is also not required but indeed recommended. Most dental schools will look to see if you have studied science before.

Regardless, you should have the following pre-dental science requirements:

  • At least two semesters of biology with lab
  • At least two semesters of general chemistry with lab
  • At last two semesters of organic chemistry with lab
  • At least two semesters of physics with lab

You’ll also need to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) at least about a year before you plan to go to dental school. Having at least a year of college-level biology and chemistry courses would be helpful to pass this test.

What Do I Need to Apply to Dental School?

Applying to dental school requires ample time and effort. To apply to dental school, you may need to prepare the following:

  • A personal statement explaining your interest in a dental career
  • A letter(s) of evaluation from a reference
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Completed coursework in related science fields
  • A specific grade point average (GPA)
  • Passing Dental Admissions Test scores
  • Dental office shadowing experience or internship experience with an accredited practitioner
  • A personal interview

Admissions requirements will vary depending on the school(s) to which you’re applying. Still, it’s always better to be overprepared with more materials than necessary than underprepared.

What Is The Dental Admissions Test?

The Dental Admissions Test (DAT), sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA),  is a computerized test that measures your general academic and perceptual ability, as well as your comprehension of science. Broken down, it consists of four key elements:

  1. Survey of the Natural Sciences
  2. Perceptual Ability
  3. Reading Comprehension
  4. Quantitative Reasoning

Each test is scored on a scale of one to 30, though the Survey of Natural Sciences test takes the average of your three sub-scores for biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.

You can take the DAT at any Prometric test center in the United States, U.S. territories (including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands), and Canada. Prospective dental students generally take the DAT during their junior year in college. This is about one year prior to their admission to dental school. 

Taking the Prometric test early gives students ample time to apply to school and retake the test if necessary. You can retake the DAT if you don’t achieve your desired score, but you should aim to take the test only once, as retakes are limited.

To register for the DAT, you have to first apply for a Dental Personal Identification Number (DENTPIN) here.

ADEA AADSAS Application Process

The dental school application process is multifaceted but straightforward. You can apply to the dental schools participating in the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) online on the American ADEA website here.

The application cycle typically opens on or around June 1, and the application deadline is typically around February 1. It’s important to note that the ADEA does not make admissions decisions; it is just a centralized application service. Each individual school will have its own admissions committee.

Here are the application steps you will take:

  1. Submit your ADEA AADSAS application online and designate the dental schools to which you want to send it.
  2. Send all of your official transcripts to this address:

ADEA AADSAS

PO Box 9110

Watertown, MA 02471 3

  1. Specify who will write your letters of evaluation.
  2. Schedule a date to take your DAT.

From there, the ADEA will verify your transcripts, import your DAT scores, and send your information off to your chosen dental schools. The dental schools will then apply their own admissions process.

Typically they will review your application materials and any supplemental information you share. They may choose to interview you or they may ask for additional information or send you a supplemental application. If you are chosen they will then send you an offer of admission and enrollment information.

Application Fees

The ADEA AADSAS charges $259 (USD) for the first program to which you apply and $112 for each additional program to which you apply. Some programs may have supplemental fees, as well.

Fee assistance is available for qualifying applicants. Learn more about whether or not you qualify for financial assistance here.

Resources

“ADEA AADSAS Application Fees and Fee Assistance Program.” Liaison, 9 June 2020, help.liaisonedu.com/ADEA_AADSAS_Applicant_Help_Center/Starting_Your_ADEA_AADSAS_Application/Getting_Started_with_Your_ADEA_AADSAS_Application/03_Application_Fees_and_Fee_Assistance_Program.

“Dental Admission Test (DAT).” Dental Admission Test, www.ada.org/en/education-careers/dental-admission-test.

“Dental Admission Test (DAT).” Dental Admission Test, www.ada.org/en/education-careers/dental-admission-test.

“Dental Admission Test (DAT): How to Apply to Dental School: Dentistry: Pre-Health Advising Office.” Pre, prehealth.uga.edu/pre-dental/how-to-apply-to-dental-school/Dental-Admission-Test/.

“Dental School Admissions.” Applying for Dental School, www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/be-a-dentist/applying-for-dental-school.

“DENTPIN®.” DENTPIN, www.ada.org/en/education-careers/dentpin. Prerequisites, www.adea.org/GoDental/Application_Prep/Preparing_for_Dental_School/Prerequisites.aspx.

“What's on the DAT?” What's on the DAT? | Medical Information | The Princeton Review, www.princetonreview.com/medical/dat-information?source=aw&awc=18466_1595234419_748918bd8ec79c8667aa6b87bb27746a.

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Updated on: January 20, 2021
Author
AnnaMarie Houlis
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Medically Reviewed
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Dr. Lara Coseo
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