Pre-Dental

About Dentistry

Dentists diagnose, prevent and treat problems of the teeth and tissues of the mouth. They remove decay, fill cavities, examine x-rays, place protective sealants on children’s teeth, straighten teeth, and repair fractured teeth. They also perform corrective surgery of the gums and supporting bones to treat gum disease, extract teeth, and make molds for dentures. In addition, they provide instruction in diet and dental care.

Dentists are often the first healthcare professionals to recognize and identify a wide variety of diseases, ranging from hypertension to cancer. They use new technology, such as computers and magnetic resonance imaging. They are artists as well as scientists, using aesthetic sense to help their patients look their best.

Most dentists are general practitioners. Others may practice in one of nine specialty areas, including orthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics, endodontics, dental public health, oral pathology, or oral and maxillofacial radiology.

Employment of dentists is expected to grow by 21 percent from 2010 to 2020 as the population ages. The median annual wage for dentists was $149,310 in May 2012. For general dentists, the median annual wage was $145,240, while the average was more than $187,200 for oral and maxillofacial surgeons and for orthodontists.

Program & Requirements

Most dental schools award the degree of doctor of dental surgery (DDS) or the equivalent degree of doctor of dental medicine (DMD). The doctoral degree program will include classes such as local anesthesia, anatomy, periodontology and radiology and also will include clinical practice under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

Additional training is required for any of the specialties in the dental field, and most dentists must complete a one- or two-year residency in a program related to their specialty after earning their doctoral degree.

Most dental students need a bachelor’s degree before entering dental school. Requirements will vary by school, but all require applicants to have completed certain required science courses, such as biology and chemistry.

College undergraduates who plan to apply to dental school also must take the Dental Acceptance Test, the results of which, along with grade point average and recommendations, factor into the competitive admissions process.

Prerequisites

  • General Chemistry | CHEM 220 and CHEM 230
  • General Biology | BIOL 202 and BIOL 204
  • Organic Chemistry | CHEM 300 and CHEM 400
  • Physics | PHY 202/204 or PHY 232/242
  • English | ENGW 201 or 202 (some schools require 2 semesters)

Required by some schools

  • Microbiology | BIOL 308
  • Genetics | BIOL 330
  • Anatomy | BIOL 224 (required by OHSU)
  • Physiology | BIOL 240 (required by OHSU)
  • Biochemistry | CHEM 380
  • Psychology | PSY 150
  • Neuroscience | PSY 252
  • Calculus | MATH 226
  • Art Studio Classes | Sculpture or 3-D Drawing

Applicants must take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) a year before entering dental school.

More information

Pacific University Advising Center

American Dental Education Association

American Dental Association