How to Become a Dentist
Course Recommendation for Dental School
Not all the courses listed below may be required by all schools, and some schools may require other courses not included in this sample. For a full list of Dentistry Prerequisites please visit the Preparation for the study of Dentistry bulletin.
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How do I apply for admission to Dental School?
Take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) at least a year prior to seeking admission to dental school. This computerized test measures general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information and perceptual ability. Completion of at least one year of college level courses in biology and general and organic chemistry is recommended before taking the DAT.
Admissions committees review credentials such as academic qualifications, the results from the Dental Admissions Test (DAT), grade point average (GPA), letters of recommendation, personal interviews and dental office shadowing experiences. Admission requirements can vary from school to school.
Most dental schools require personal interviews with candidates to assess qualities such as desire to help people, self-confidence, ability to meet challenges, ability to get along with people and capacity to work independently. The personal interview also provides an opportunity to ask about the school.
Apply for admission at least a year in advance of the planned enrollment date. Most dental schools participate in the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS)
Important Qualities of a Dentist
- Comfortable with close personal interaction
If you think about it, much of a dentist’s time is spent with his or her face and hands extremely close to patients’ faces. Successful dentists are comfortable with being very close to other people, even if sometimes patients have bad breath.
- Easy to talk to
Successful dentists try to learn about patients on a more personal level before beginning treatment to make patients feel more comfortable. This puts patients at ease and makes them feel like the dentist truly cares about them as whole healthy people, not just about their mouths.
Since dentists are working with sharp metal objects in the mouth, a very sensitive area of the body, it is really important that they are trustworthy. Patients need to trust that their dentist will try his or her best not to hurt them and will take all precautions necessary to make their experience pain free.
- A detail-oriented person
The mouth is an extremely small space to work in, so dentists must be detail oriented. The smallest misalignment of something in the mouth can wreak havoc on a patient’s bite and tooth health.
Dentistry is often referred to as an art. It requires mastery and technique unique to the profession. Dentistry is largely based on maintaining proper oral health, but is also an aesthetically focused practice. A large part of dentistry involves restoring teeth and making a smile beautiful, one that the patient is happy to show to others.
- A leader
Dentists may own or work as practitioners within a practice, so they often are natural leaders. They must not only lead a team of dental hygienists, technicians and assistants, but must also manage any other employees, such as the receptionist, while also making high-level business decisions for the practice.
- Excited about the profession of dentistry
Successful dentists enjoy the work they do every day and are fascinated by the mouth and all of the connections it has to the rest of the body.
- Passionate about providing care to those in need
Dentists often participate in community service, helping those in need with oral care and treatment. Many dentists enjoy helping those with no access to care receive treatments for painful or unattractive parts of their mouths.
- Caring and concerned about how the patient feels during procedures
Because dentists work in a very small and sensitive space of the body, a good dentist communicates with the patient during every step of a procedure, making sure they are okay and not in too much pain. Good dentists go to great lengths to make their patients comfortable and relaxed without pain.
- Good communicator
A successful dentist has a keen ability to distill complex procedures and processes into simple language so that the patient can understand exactly what is going on in his or her mouth and any procedures that the dentist suggests.