Updated on February 1, 2024
5 min read

How to Apply to Dental School

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Applying to dental school takes time to do well and typically costs a hefty fee. Time and cost will vary depending on the schools you apply to.

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

With a degree from dental school and a dental license from your state’s regulatory agency, you can cultivate a fulfilling and rewarding career. 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 dental school applicants need to complete before applying.

These are the prerequisites:

1. Undergraduate Degree

Most dental students already have four years of college under their belts. However, a few dental schools may have early admissions programs that admit students with two to three years of undergraduate preparation.

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in science isn’t required but is recommended. Most dental schools will look to see if you have studied science before.

2. Prerequisite Courses

Whether or not you have an undergraduate degree, you must finish a few prerequisite courses. These pre-dental science requirements are:

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

3. Dental Admissions Test

You must take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) a year before dental school. 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 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) you’re applying to. 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. It measures your general academic and perceptual ability and your comprehension of science in these 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 1 to 30. However, the Survey of Natural Sciences test averages your three sub-scores for biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.

Where to Take the DAT

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.

When to Take the DAT

Prospective dental students generally take the DAT during their junior year in college. This is about one year before their admission to dental school. 

Taking the Prometric test gives you ample time to apply to a 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.

How to Register for the DAT

To register for the DAT, apply for a Dental Personal Identification Number (DENTPIN) here. The DENTPIN is a unique identifier for all people taking the DAT. 

It’s an eight-digit number that helps protect your personal identifying information. Those who have previously applied to take the DAT must use their existing DENTPIN if they want to retake the test.

ADEA AADSAS Application Process

Dental school application processes under the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) schools are time-consuming but straightforward.

Here’s what you need to know:

How to Apply Online

You can apply to the ADEA AADSAS online on the American ADEA website here.

Key Application Dates

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

Step-by-Step Application Process

Here are the application steps you must take:

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

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 to your chosen dental schools. The dental schools will then apply their own admissions process.

What Happens After Sending Applications?

The admissions committee will typically review your application materials and any supplemental information you share. They may interview you or request additional information.

The admission committee can also send you a supplementary application. If they choose you, they’ll send you an offer of admission and enrollment information.

Application Fees

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

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

Dental School Application Tips

The dental school application process is competitive and rigorous. To help you with this journey, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Start preparing your application early, ideally around a year before your intended application date
  • Take time to research your preferred dental schools since each school may have unique requirements
  • Build a solid academic foundation early on to demonstrate your preparedness for dental school
  • Dedicate significant time studying and reviewing for the DAT to enhance your test-taking skills
  • Double-check your ADEA AADSAS application for accuracy and completeness
  • Apply to a variety of schools to increase your chances of acceptance


  • Applying to dental school can be a long and complicated process.
  • Some steps you need to take for application include submitting your ADEA AADSAS application, requesting letters of evaluation, and scheduling the DAT. 
  • Early preparation and researching your desired dental schools can help you increase your chances of acceptance.

Last updated on February 1, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 1, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. “ADEA AADSAS Application Fees and Fee Assistance Program.” American Dental Education Association.
  2. “Dental Admission Test (DAT).” American Dental Association.
  3. “Dental Admission Test (DAT)”  University of Georgia Pre-Professional Advising Office.
  4. “Preparing for Dental School: Prerequisites.” American Dental Education Association.
  5. “What’s on the DAT?” The Princeton Review.
  6. “THE APPLICATION TO DENTAL SCHOOL: ADEA AADSAS.” American Dental Education Association.
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