There are two types of degrees dentists can attain: The D.D.S. and D.M.D. degrees are equivalent degrees. Which degree you attain will depend on the type of degree offered by the dental school you attend.
Dentists are doctors who specialize in oral health. Their responsibilities include:
- Diagnosing oral diseases
- Promoting oral health and disease prevention
- Creating treatment plans to maintain or restore the oral health of their patients
- Interpreting x-rays and diagnostic tests
- Ensuring the safe administration of anesthetics
- Monitoring growth and development of the teeth and jaws
- Performing surgical procedures on the teeth, bone and soft tissues of the oral cavity
Dentists' oversight of the clinical team is critical to ensuring safe and effective oral care. Even seemingly routine procedures such as tooth extractions, preparing and placing fillings or administering anesthetics carry potential risks of complications such as infection, temporary or even permanent nerve damage, prolonged bleeding, hematomas and pain.
Click here to learn more about what dentists do.
More than Just Teeth and Gums
Dentists' areas of care include not only their patients' teeth and gums but also the muscles of the head, neck and jaw, the tongue, salivary glands, the nervous system of the head and neck and other areas. During a comprehensive exam, dentists examine the teeth and gums, but they also look for lumps, swellings, discolorations, ulcerations—any abnormality. When appropriate, they perform procedures such as biopsies, diagnostic tests for chronic or infectious diseases, salivary gland function, and screening tests for oral cancer.
In addition, dentists can spot early warning signs in the mouth that may indicate disease elsewhere in the body. Dentists' training also enables them to recognize situations that warrant referring patients for care by dental specialists or physicians.
Dentists can practice in several clinical fields including general dentistry, dental public health, endodontics (dental nerves and pulp), orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics (tissue and bone supporting teeth), prosthodontics, and oral and maxillofacial pathology, radiology, and surgery.
Explore | Prepare | Apply
Dentists examine, diagnose, and treat diseases, injuries, and malformations of teeth and gums. They may also treat diseases of nerve, pulp, and other dental tissues affecting oral hygiene and retention of teeth. Dentists have the opportunity to work flexible hours and own their own business right after dental school. The PPAC encourages you to take time to explore the path to dental medicine, what a career as a dentist truly entails, and how you can best prepare.
As you prepare for Dental School, please keep in mind that you MUST successfully complete specific pre-requisite courses and earn a bachelor's degree (in any major) from an accredited university/college. Each dental program may vary with the pre-requisite courses that they require so it is imperative that you research the programs and schools you are interested in. Listed below are the most common prerequisites for dental school.
Major: You can major in whatever you choose as long as you complete the required pre-requisites. Dental schools appreciate diversity in majors so choose a subject you enjoy, are passionate about, and can be successful in. Some students also use their major as a backup plan in case they change their mind/career goals.
Pre-Reqs: This list is the most commonly required pre-reqs for dental schools. Do your research to ensure you are meeting all required courses for the dental schools for which you are interested in applying.
- 1 year of General Biology w/lab
- 1 year of General Chemistry w/lab
- 1 year of Organic Chemistry w/lab
- 1 semester of Biochemistry
- 1 year of General Physics w/lab
- Anatomy and Physiology
Additional common pre-reqs:
- 1 year of General English
- 1 semester of Social Science (Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology)
Grading Policies for Pre-Requisites:
- AP and IB Credit are generally not accepted towards pre-reqs
- For Transfer Students: Community college credits can be viewed differently by each school; do your research on if they are accepted.
- All courses, including repeated courses will count towards your GPA, regardless of how old they are. Be careful with "W" on your transcripts; they are not counted towards GPA but you should not be withdrawing from courses as a trend
- Some programs have expiration dates on their pre-reqs, meaning you need to take them within a certain time period of applying. Again, do your research.
- Extracurricular Experiences
Professional school programs have adopted a "holistic" admissions process, meaning you are more than just your metrics. How you demonstrate your motivation for your future profession, your personal characteristics, and the ways in which you give back to your community can make or break your application.
It is your responsibility as a pre-health student to understand the different types of experiences that will make you a competitive applicant to dental school. The most common experiences necessary include:
- Dentistry is a service-focused profession which seeks students who demonstrate promise to serve community throughout their lifetime
- Should try to show involvement over a significant amount of time as compared to short periods to show commitment
- Ex. Habitat for Humanity, MEDLIFE, Church involvement, Soup kitchens
Clinical Experience: experiences in which you interact with patients in a clinical environment. Professional schools like to see as many hands on, direct patient care as possible!
Shadowing a dentists or dental specialists can help expose you to the field and a better understanding of their responsibilities.
- Attempt to find various offices/specialists to shadow to gain breadth of experiences (2-5 dentists)
- Shadowing opportunities can be hard to find (especially due to COVID 19 precautions); we advise you to:
- Network: Ask your primary care physician, family dentist, family, friends, and colleagues if they know a professional that would allow you to shadow
- Call local dentists in your area (Google)
- If you have volunteered or worked in a clinical setting, perhaps ask that location if they will now take you on for shadowing.
Research is highly recommended during your undergraduate career.
- It demonstrates an interest in uncovering answers and making new discoveries
- Dental schools look for candidates who can change the future of dentistry
- Can help a student learn how to interpret research which is needed for dental school and beyond
- Interested students can reach out to professors involved in research on campus to look for research opportunities in their respective laboratories Listed below are sites to the faculty in different departments, if you are interested in research outside of these fields feel free to look them up on the Seton Hall website.
- Shows initiative and creativity in various organizations or student programming
- Dentists will almost always work in a team setting which is why it is important that students demonstrate that they have what it takes to be a leader
- Aim to have 2-3 leadership roles (lasting longer than 3 months) before you apply.
- Examples of Leadership Experiences:
- Having an executive board position in a on campus club, nonprofit, or organization
- Holding a leadership position in student government
- Working as a teaching assistant or tutor
- Leadership positions in your local community (ex. Church position)
- Leading a research project
- Leading a project in your community
- Browse all the clubs/organizations at Seton Hall here!
- This is the ability to use hands in skillful, coordinated way which is a necessity for dentists working in people’s mouths with small tools
- Dental Admission Test (DAT) contains sections that tests this skill and interviews will ask you to discuss development of such skills
- Ex. of how to develop skills: drawing, painting, woodcarving, sewing
Please note the following for all your experiences:
- There isn’t a "magic number" of specific hours for you need to complete before applying to Dental School.
- Choose experiences to genuinely fulfill your interests and passion. There are no right or wrong experiences. Do not just do things to "check them off the list"
- Experiences should be meaningful both on a personal level and to your professional journey. During the application process you will need to write thoughtful descriptions about your experiences so participating "just because" won't help your application.
- Commitment over time is important. Dental Schools would rather see dedication over many months/years to an experience over “experience-hopping” or "cramming" before the application cycle.
- Think quality over quantity
The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a standardized, test required for admission into dental school
- The DAT is administered year-round. Taking the exam by spring will enable you to apply earlier.
- DAT scale scores range from 1 to 30. A scale score of 19 - 20 typically signifies average performance on a national basis.
- It takes 4-5 hours to complete and consists of multiple choice questions in 4 sections
- Survey of Natural Science (100 questions)
- Perceptual Ability (90 questions)
- Reading Comprehension (50 questions)
- Quantitative Reasoning (40 questions)
When to take the DAT:
Sign up and take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) in Spring of junior year
- Start your application here: https://www.ada.org/education/testing/exams/dental-admission-test-dat/apply-for-the-dental-admission-test-dat
- Must submit an application 60-90 days before you intend to take the exam (non-refundable fee is associated).
- Once eligibility is confirmed, schedule your test, and begin studying.
- Make an appointment at the P-PAC to review your study plan and resources.
- General Timeline
Applications to dental school are submitted 1 year in advance of when you intend on enrolling (think: end of Spring semester junior year). However, the exact timing depends on when you will take the DAT, complete prerequisites, etc. For a general overview from ADA, visit: Application Timeline.
It is helpful to create a timeline for yourself when applying to medical school but your timeline should be flexible. Course scheduling, extra-curricular activities, deadline changes, etc. all contribute to the need of having flexibility in your timeline. Visit the P-PAC to learn what you can start doing now to develop into a competitive applicant. Here are a few recommendations:
- Focus on achieving good grades and building strong and effective study techniques
- Research Dental schools that you may be interested in applying to and create a list of prerequisites they require
- Meet with academic and pre-professional advisor to form plan on coursework
- Begin cultivating relationships with professors and advisors (we will need Letters of Recommendations from them in the future)
- Join clubs/organizations on campus and seek out shadowing experiences
- Start working on the extracurricular experiences outlined above
- SUMMER: Consider participating in an enrichment program, research project, or internship, work or volunteer in a dental office or clinic to further expose yourself to the profession
- Continue achieving good grades and completing prerequisite courses
- Meet with academic and pre-professional advisors to ensure you are on the right track
- Continue fostering close relationships with professors and potential letter writers
- Seek out research opportunities in a professor’s lab
- Continue getting involved around campus, in the community, and in dental offices
- SUMMER: Consider participating in an enrichment program, research project, or internship, work or volunteer in a dental office or clinic to further expose yourself to the profession
- Complete Biology and Chemistry courses in preparation for the DAT which should be taken at the end of the Spring semester
- Continue achieving competitive grades
- Begin looking further into dental schools that you see yourself attending and create an Excel sheet of all deadlines
- Form a study plan and set time aside to study for the DAT
- Continue gaining experiences in the field
- Complete the Pre- Health Application Cycle Registration Form to let the P-PAC know you plan on applying the upcoming cycle.
- If you plan to request for a Committee Letter complete questionnaire and gather supplemental documents.
- Begin asking for Letters of Recommendation from those you have formed relationships with and who would be able to write you a strong letter
- Work on the Personal Statement. This will take several attempts to truly convey what you want it to. Be patient, be creative, and be proactive. Do not wait until the last minute or you may not have time to edit.
- Take the Casper exam starting in April. This is a situational based test that evaluates students ethical and moral decision making. The test requires students to type responses to questions in a short amount of time so be sure to practice typing speed as well as practicing hypothetical situations that you may be asked.
- Begin applying through the ADEA AADSAS application service which opens on May 10, 2022
- Finish and submit your primary application (ADEA AADSAS) no later than the end of Summer in your Junior year
- Complete all outstanding prerequisite courses
- Continue gaining experience, stay involved in the community, and even look for new clinical experiences
- Finish all supplemental applications by the deadline. Each school’s deadlines vary so ensure all deadlines are written in an excel sheet
- Write thank you letters to all letter writers and supporters through our your application journey.
- Go to interviews when invited. Make sure to research the schools you are applying to so that you are familiar with their curriculum and any unique aspects of the school that compelled you to apply. Practice mock interviews with friends, family, and the pre-professional advising center
The ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (ADEA AADSAS®) is the centralized application service for U.S. dental schools. ADEA AADSAS simplifies the application process, allowing you to save time and energy by completing just one application for multiple dental schools. Application Quick Guide!
Applications to dental school are submitted 1 year in advance of when you intend on enrolling (think: end of Spring semester junior year). However, the exact timing depends on when you will take the DAT, complete prerequisites, etc. For a general overview from ADA, visit: Application Timeline
- While applying early in the cycle has advantages, the best time for you to apply is when your application is the best it can be.
- Dental school requirements vary from school to school. Research schools early for specific information on their requirements.
- Texas residents applying to Texas dental schools, must apply through the Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). If you are applying to Texas schools along with schools in other states you must apply through both application services.
Dental School Application process includes 4 main components
- Personal Information
- Academic History
- Supporting Information
- Program Materials
The Seton Hall University Pre- Professional Advising Center (P-PAC) offers a Pre- Health Committee review of all application documents and a comprehensive letter service for Seton Hall University students and alumni who aspire to attend health professional/graduate schools and meet specific requirements. Click here to learn how your letter writers should submit your letter.
Your first step will always be to Complete the Pre- Health Application Cycle Registration Form to let the P-PAC know you plan on applying the upcoming cycle.
- What Programs Do I Apply To?
What Programs Do I Apply To?
The ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (ADEA AADSAS®) simplifies the process of applying to dental programs. You start by selecting the programs to which you wish to apply, then you submit one application that includes all necessary materials. Once received by ADEA AADSAS, your application and materials go through a verification process before being transmitted to all of your selected programs. ADEA list of Participating Schools.
Research! Visit each Dental school’s respective website. You’ll find each have different requirements and information for interested students.
You may want to consider the following while selecting which schools to apply to:
- In state vs out of state tuition
- Distance from your support networks
- Mission statement and focus
- Programs offered
- Curriculum and teaching methods
- Support and wellness structures in place for students
- GPA/test score requirements
- Specific or unique prerequisites
- Size and demographics
- Primary Application
Primary Applications are processed through the centralized application service. The ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (ADEA AADSAS® and/or TMDSAS (ONLY TEXAS Schools) and are sent to all schools you designate on the application.
Applications open online in early May each year to allow applicants to start their applications and submission starts on, or around, June 4th. As mentioned, ensure you are paying attention to deadlines for submission for each school to which you are applying! Apply early regardless and if requesting committee letter be sure to follow all committee deadlines.
ADEA AADSAS Application Deadlines and Dates 2022-2023
- ADEA AADSAS Application Opens: May 10th, 2022
- First Day to Submit ADEA AADSAS: June 1st, 2022
- ADEA AADSAS School- Specific Deadlines:
- Personal Statement
The personal statement is a crucial part of the application process because it is what will allow YOU to stand out amongst your peers. This is the place where students should showcase who they are outside of their statistics (DAT, GPA, etc.) and show how they are unique.
- Discuss how you would contribute to the profession and patient care, all of which will help you stand out from other applicants.
- The personal statement is an opportunity to share something new about yourself that the admissions committee would not know when reading your application.
- Get it proofread and edited
- Evaluations/Letters of Reccommendation
Evaluations/Letters of Recommendation
Every dental school has certain criteria regarding letters of recommendations. We recommend you do your research and check the policy for every school to which you're applying. Keep in mind that Seton Hall has a Pre-Health committee available to you that can also write a committee letter on your behalf (if eligible).
Dental schools typically only require three letters of recommendation, but we recommend submitting all four letters—or a committee letter packet which would include the committee letter, and 3 other individual letters in one packet.
In general, plan to request a letter from:
- Seton Hall University Pre-Health Committee Letter
- 1 science professor whose class you took for a grade,
- 1 dentist you’ve shadowed
- If you don’t qualify for a committee letter, consider requesting your 4th letter from an employer or another (non-science or science) professor.
The Seton Hall University Pre- Professional Advising Center (P-PAC) offers a Pre- Health Committee review of all application documents and a comprehensive letter service for Seton Hall students and alumni who aspire to attend health professional/graduate schools and meet specific requirements. Click here to learn how your letter writers should submit your letter
- Secondary Applications/Supplemental Information
Secondary Application/Supplemental Information
Once dental schools receive your verified primary application, they may send out "Secondary Applications." Some secondary applications are automatically sent from some schools and others will screen applicants for metrics, experiences, Letters of recommendations, etc. before sending. Deadlines for completing secondary applications range from 5 business days to a month, so pay close attention to these deadlines. Each school is different and have their own secondary questions, deadlines, and instructions. Most secondary applications require more writing and consist of essay style questions – so be prepared. Be sure to read all instructions and be aware that there will be an additional cost to submit your secondary applications on top of your primary application fees.
If you receive a secondary application from a school, you no longer are interested in attending, that's ok! You are not required to send back the secondary at that point.
Before submitting your secondaries, get it edited or proofread by the Seton Hall University committee or the writing center. Submit your secondary as soon as you are comfortable with your responses (ensuring you are still before deadline) so you can be considered and, hopefully, extended an interview invitation.
PPAC provides mock interview sessions for students applying during the current cycle. Learn more about Interviews here.