Dentists are committed to maintaining the health of the teeth, gums, and other tissues in and around the mouth through the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral diseases and conditions. Most students who pursue dentistry become general practitioners who provide primary dental care; but they have the option to pursue specialties such as endodontics, oral and maxillofacial radiology or surgery, orthodontics, and periodontics through additional education and training.
Majors and Coursework
Dental schools do not give preference to particular majors over others; nor do they give preference to students with multiple majors or minors. Likewise, they do not give preference to a Bachelor of Science degree over a Bachelor of Arts degree. Most dental schools seek to construct a class of students that is diverse in academic and experiential backgrounds. They look at the depth and richness of a student’s undergraduate experience rather than the quantity of titles and certifications earned. As such, pre-dental students should select their majors based on their interest in a subject and their passion for studying it.
Although dental schools do not give preference to certain types of majors over others, there is a common set of prerequisites that students must fulfill regardless of their area of study. Generally, the requirements for dental school include:
- 2 Semesters of General Chemistry with Lab
- 2 Semesters of Organic Chemistry with Lab
- 2-3 Semesters of Biology with Lab
- 2 Semesters of Physics with Lab
In addition to the core Biology-Chemistry-Physics sciences, many dental schools require courses in other subject areas. Due to the variation among the dental schools’ requirements, students are encouraged to identify what schools they plan to apply to early in their junior year in order to determine the specific requirements they need to complete over their last two years as an undergraduate student. The most common requirements include:
- 1-2 Semesters of Calculus and/or Statistics
- 1-2 Semesters of English Composition
- 1 Semester of Biochemistry
- 1 Semester of Microbiology
- 1-2 Semesters of Anatomy and/or Physiology
While slight differences exist (e.g. pre-dental students do not have to take introductory psychology or sociology), the recommended sequence of courses for pre-dental students is similar to pre-medical students and can be found on the Medicine page. The sequences cover the most common requirements and prepare students to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) by the end of their junior year, though many pre-dental students find themselves prepared to take the test by the end of their second year.
Deciding to pursue a career in dentistry is a significant commitment. Although the personal and professional rewards of the career can be great, so are the demands. As such, gaining formal, clinical exposure is an essential component of a student’s exploration of field. Most dental schools require between 20 and 100 hours of job shadowing. Furthermore, many dental schools prefer applicants who have shadowed with multiple dentists and specialists. While not required, volunteer work that includes interactions with patients in any health care setting is highly valued by many dental schools. Although there is no expectation that students obtain clinical exposure every semester and summer, they are expected to have experiences spread across each of their undergraduate years.
The application cycle for dental schools is an extensive process that takes approximately a year and half (including preparation of application materials) and requires numerous, well-informed decisions and keen attention to details. Support for the application process is provided by the pre-health advisor. Students are encouraged to schedule an appointment to discuss any matter related to the application process. Individual appointments may be scheduled in Handshake.
Letters of Recommendation
CWRU undergraduate students applying to dental schools may request a Composite Letter Packet to be submitted by the pre-health advisor. The packet consists of individual letters of recommendation from faculty, professional mentors and supervisors, and a letter of evaluation from a pre-health advisor. Visit the Advisor Letter Services page for instructions on how to request a composite letter packet for the current application cycle and to submit letters of recommendation.