Dental School Admissions
Dental school involves four years of post-baccalaureate study leading to either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. (The two degrees are equivalent.)
Only one school, the University of the Pacific, offers an accelerated 3-year DDS program. Several schools offer joint bachelor/dental programs leading to a dental degree after seven years of post-secondary study. Graduates of foreign dental schools can enroll in special two-year programs that prepare them for licensure exams, or may be able to gain advanced standing in DDS/DMD programs. (See individual school listings for details). U.S. dental programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Canadian dental schools are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada.
Most U.S. and some Canadian schools take part in a centralized dental school admissions program, the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), which is administered by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). Applications can be submitted starting approximately 16 months prior to the desired start date for studies. (Most years, the application season opens on June 1.) February 1 is the AADSAS application deadline. However, most schools encourage earlier applications. Schools participating in AADSAS agree not to send notifications earlier than December 1. U.S. dental school applicants take a standardized test, the Dental Admission Test (DAT), administered by the American Dental Association (ADA). The DAT measures general academic ability, scientific knowledge, and perceptual ability.
The Canadian Dental Association administers a similar test, the Canadian Dental Aptitude Test (CDAT). U.S. schools accept CDAT scores; however, because the Canadian test includes a manual dexterity component that is not on the U.S. test, Canadian dental schools do not accept U.S. scores. Dental school admissions committees look at applicants’ academic records and preparation, DAT scores, letters of reference, and performance at personal interviews. Applicants can benefit from having worked or volunteered at a dental clinic or practice, or having “job shadowed” a dentist to gain familiarity with the field.
Although a number of dental schools do not formally require a bachelor’s degree for admission, the great majority of successful applicants have completed an undergraduate degree in an appropriate discipline before beginning dental school. One factor to consider in choosing dental schools is whether a school is public or private. A number of dental schools are state-supported, and give preference to applicants from their state. Another factor to consider is your long-term career interests. Some schools emphasize preparing dental professionals for clinical practice, whereas those at large universities often offer opportunities for research and joint degree programs.