Preparing for Dental School

Education: There are 55 dental schools in the United States, but only one in Virginia (Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry). Most D.D.S. programs require four years of study, including emphasis on basic science clinical work and social science.

The first two years of most programs are generally aimed at classroom learning of basic science as it relates to dentistry. Subsequent years of most programs then focus on clinical training.

Admission to dental schools is highly competitive; one should have at least a 3.3 grade point average, have spent considerable time shadowing a dental professional, have significant volunteer hours, positive letters of reference and satisfactory to excellent scores on the DAT and perceptual ability tests.

Undergraduate Preparation: Undergraduate students can major in any academic discipline, but most dental schools require the following courses be completed for admission:

  • 2 semesters of general biology (with lab)
  • 2 semesters of general chemistry (with lab)
  • 2 semesters of organic chemistry (with lab)
  • 2 semesters of physics (with lab)
  • 1 semester of biochemistry (with lab; strongly recommended)

Additional recommended coursework:

  • Behavioral sciences
  • Cell biology
  • Developmental biology
  • English courses
  • Genetics
  • Histology
  • Immunology
  • Mathematics courses
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology

(HPAG strongly recommends that prospective dentistry students take course work in Medical Ethics-Soci 223, and in the Health, Illness and Healing-Soci 323).

As early as possible, students should contact schools that interest them to request information about each specific program and admission requirements. Most schools recommend that students apply as early as possible for placement the dental school class following graduation from an undergraduate program.

Dental schools look very favorably on dental-related experience. In fact, some require it. Check with the dental schools to which you are applying to see if they require dental work experience for admissions.