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Preparing for Dental School

What other prerequisites are necessary for entering dental school?

Going on to dental school means entering a highly competitive environment with strict admissions standards. Students must have a 3.5 GPA in their undergraduate studies, and a high score on their Dental Admissions Test in order to be considered.

What is the Dental Admissions Test (DAT)?

Successful completion of the (DAT) is one of the major qualifiers for entering dental school. It is typically taken in the second year of college and tests the student’s knowledge of biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. A student must submit an application showing these basic requirements have been satisfied. The application must be approved by the ADA in order to take the test.

Prometric, a contracted testing agency with locations all over the country, administers the test for a $205.00 fee. The test consists entirely of multiple choice questions and is scheduled to last four and half hours. Out of a possible score of 30, 15 is passing, 18 represents the national average, and 20 or higher will typically assure acceptance to dental school. A sample test is available on the ADA’s website: www.ada.org.

What can I expect from dental school?

The first two years of dental school are lab and classroom based, while the last two are spent in teaching clinics with licensed dentists. This means direct exposure to the procedures that a career in dentistry would involve. Students will also be trained in performing the procedures associated with endodontics, periodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, etc. Dental school involves training in everything from filling cavities to performing surgery.

What will the last two years of dental school in teaching clinics involve?

Under the close supervision of an accredited dentist, students will perform dental procedures on voluntary patients. A student would begin by first observing before going on to perform the simpler procedures like cleanings, X-rays, and filling cavities. As students demonstrate aptitude they would be allowed to perform more challenging procedures like wisdom tooth extractions and implants. Competent students could perform these procedures as early as their first year in the teaching clinic.

By the second year in the clinic students are handling all the procedures they’d perform as a career dentist. This would include root canals, crowns, various types of cosmetic dentistry, and gum surgery. Since there is no charge for the services provided to patients having procedures performed by students in dental teaching clinics, these clinics provide both the training students need as well as a valuable service to the community.

What student resources are available?

The American Student Dental Association (ASDA) is an organization established and run by dental school students. Its aim is to make information available to dental school students and prospective dental students to help them navigate the requirements for entering dental school and a career in dentistry. A membership in the ASDA qualifies the student for unique loan programs and discounts on DAT preparation materials. Membership to the ASDA is available through their website: www.asda.org.

Another student resource is the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), part of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). This organization works to simplify the dental school application process for students by providing one standardized form that is recognized by most dental schools nationwide. Membership to ADEA is available at their website: www.adea.org.

The American Dental Association (ADA) is the oldest and largest professional dental association in the United States. It is the foremost authority on dentistry and sets the standard for dental testing and accreditation. Its monthly publication, the Journal of the American Dental Association is the most widely circulated dental publication. Visit www.ada.org.

How much does it cost to satisfy undergraduate requirements before entering dental school?

The cost of satisfying undergraduate requirements depends largely on the way in which a student approaches their academic career. If a student is not necessarily decided upon dentistry as a career path early on and has already worked through completion of a BS, then the cost would typically be about $20,000. If; however, students declare their intent to work towards a DDS early in their academic careers, and if the dental school of their choice allows admission without a BS, then the cost of satisfying undergraduate requirements could be as low as half that.

How much will four years of dental school cost?

The investment in earning a dental degree is significant and varies widely depending on the institution. State schools represent the lower end while private universities would represent the higher end. According to estimates provided by www.finaid.org the range for most four year dental schools is between $100,000 and $205,000 dollars to earn a DDS or DMD. All told, when factoring the costs of undergraduate studies and dental school, the total expense usually ranges between $120,000 and $225,000.

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