There are many pieces to the dental school application, including your GPA, DAT score, personal statement, list of experiences, letters of recommendation, and biographical information. Use the navigation below to explore each aspect of preparing for dental school.

What is a dentist?

Becoming a dentist



Pre-Dental Experiences

Applying to Dental Schools

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a dentist?

  • A dentist is a doctor who focuses on the health of the teeth, gums and other tissues in and around the mouth.
  • Dentists can obtain a Doctor of Medical Dentistry (D.M.D.) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.).
  • See the ADEA GoDental Why be a dentist?

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Becoming a dentist

Other careers in the dental profession:

  1. Dental hygenist
  2. Dental assistant
  3. Lab technician
  4. Patient care counselor
  1. Obtain an undergraduate degree (4 years)
  2. Attend dental school and obtain a D.D.S. or D.M.D. (4 years)
  3. Take the National Board Dental Examinations and become licensed in the state you want to practice

After getting a D.M.D. or D.D.S, you can pursue a doctoral degree in Dental Science and go into one of nine specialties:

    • Endodontics
    • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
    • Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology
    • Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology
    • Orthodontics
    • Pediatric Dentistry
    • Periodontics
    • Prosthodontics
    • Public Health Dentistry

Specialities require at least two additional years of schooling.

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Prerequisites for Dental School

Myth: If I'm going to get a C- in a class, I should intentionally get a D or F in that class in order to retake it for a better grade.

Fact: Do not fail a class on purpose in order to retake it for a better grade. Even though the lower grade will not be included in your UC Davis GPA, it will remain on your transcript and most centralized applications will count that first grade into your application GPA.

Additionally, the health profession schools will still see it. It is better to have a C- in the course and improve through other courses in the same discipline than to take a D or F.

Most health professional schools require all prerequisites to be completed with a C or higher. Although you cannot repeat the C- at UC Davis, you will need to repeat it somewhere else either over a summer or after graduation.

If you need to discuss this or any other academic difficulty futher, please make an appointment with a staff advisor. 

Dental School Prerequisites at UC Davis

Most schools require:

  • General Chemistry (CHE 2ABC)
  • General Biology (BIS 2ABC)
  • Organic Chemistry (CHE 118ABC)
  • Physics (PHY 7ABC)
  • English Composition

Some schools require:

  • Biochemistry*
  • Microbiology*
  • Physiology (NPB 101)
  • Human Anatomy (EXB 106 &106L)
  • Psychology (PSC 1)
  • Math*

*Check your major requirements before choosing classes.

Note: The above courses are only suggested, not absolute. 

See the Dental School Prerequisite Chart for a sample list of dental schools and their requirements.

  • You can choose any major and apply to dental schools. If you choose a non-science major, you still have to take the science prerequisites required by dental schools. Always cross-check your major requirements and the dental school requirements when choosing classes.
  • HPA recommends that pre-dental students maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0, although many dental schools will have GPA averages above this minimum.
  • Complete all of your prerequisite courses for a letter grade - DO NOT take any of them P/NP.
  • Each dental school has different prerequisites. Check each school's prerequisites before applying. 

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The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is...

  • required by all dental schools
  • over 4 hours long.
  • offered most days of the year. You can only take the test once every 90 days.
  • $430 each time you take it.
  • designed to test your ability in six areas:
    • Survey in Natural Sciences (40 Biology Questions, 30 General Chemistry, 30 Organic Chemistry Questions)
    • Reading Comprehension
    • Perceptual Ability
    • Quantitative Reasoning
  • HPA recommends that students take the following courses before taking the DAT:
    • BIS 2ABC
    • CHE 2ABC
    • CHE 118ABC
    • STA 13 or STA 100
    • NPB 101 or 110ABC

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Pre-Dental Experiences

Myth: I can do a lot of meaningful experiences to make up for a weaker GPA.

Fact:  Having many meaningful activities will NOT make up for a low GPA.

You must focus on your grades during your undergraduate years, earn at least a 3.0, and then begin adding experiences. You can always take a year or two off after graduation to gain more experience. It is better to graduate from UC Davis with a higher GPA and less experiences than lots of experiences but a low GPA. 

Pre-Dental Student Organizations

Student organizations are a great way to obtain health experience and network with peers and professionals. Pre-dental clubs at UC Davis include:

Davis Pre-Dental Society

Global Dental Brigades at UC Davis

Operation Smile at UC Davis

Davis Spreading Smiles

Oral Health Society

What you do with your time helps define who you are in your application. Whatever you choose to do, be sure you are dedicated, passionate about it, and motivated to pursue it for the right reason!

Here are some good places to start looking for experiences at UC Davis:

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Applying to Dental School

Centralized Application: ADEA AADSAS
  • ADEA AADSAS opens in June for applicants who are planning to begin dental school the following year.
Personal Statement
  • You will have 4,500 characters (including spaces, carriages, numbers, letters, etc.) to explain why you want to be a dentist. See the ADEA's Tips for Writing a Personal Statement for Dental School.
  • The personal statement is your first chance to provide dental school admissions committees with subjective information about your qualifications and your reasons for choosing a particular career. In other words, the personal statement is your initial opportunity to present yourself as an interesting and unique applicant who deserves a closer look.
Letters of Recommendation
  • ADEA AADSAS allows you to submit four letters, but some dental schools might ask you to submit additional letters outside of AADSAS. According to the ADEA, most dental schools require two letters from science professors, one from an advisor and one from a dentist
  • Note: UC Davis does not conduct committee letters.
Supplemental Applications
Choosing Schools

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which classes count towards the science GPA?

You can find which classes are calculated in your science GPA in AADSAS here.

To calculate your science GPA, pull up your Academic Record in OASIS. Along the left side of the course list you will see boxes next to each course. Check off the boxes for the courses you wish to be included in the GPA calculation on the right side of the page.

Do dental schools prefer certain majors?

No. You can choose any major and apply to dental school as long as you complete the school prerequisites. Dental schools review applications holistically, and your major is just one piece of your story.

What's the difference between a D.M.D. and a D.D.S.?

"The simple answer is nothing. Both D.D.S. and D.M.D. mean the same thing—the dentist graduated from an accredited dental school. The D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees. D.D.S. and D.M.D. dentists both receive the same education and both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the American Dental Association (ADA). It’s up to each individual university to determine which degree is awarded."

- ADEA Go Dental

When should I start writing my personal statement?

The personal statement should be a reflective, well-polished document. You can create your first draft as soon as you want. The more time you give yourself to get feedback and revise the better. Health Professions Advising advisors are happy to read your essay and give you feedback, but please make the appointment at least a month before your deadline.

Please bring a printed draft of your personal statement to appointments and drop-in advising.

How do I satisfy the English requirement for dental school?

Lower and upper division English (ENL), UWP, and Comparative Literature (COM) courses will satisfy the English requirement for dental schools unless otherwise stated on the dental school's website. You may also take similar classes at a community college. 

Note: Testing out of the upper division UWP course requirement via the Upper Division Composition Exam (UDCE) for graduation does not count towards the dental school requirement. 

Many pre-health students take UWP 104F (see course description here). This is a great option because in this class you will produce a personal statement draft. Consider waiting to take UWP 104F until your junior or senior year, or closer to when you will submit your application.

Do I have to complete all of the prerequisites before applying?

No, you are not required to complete all of the required coursework before applying unless a school states otherwise. However, you should complete a majority of the science coursework before you apply. You must complete all of the coursework before you start at a dental school.

Can I study abroad?

Studying abroad is a wonderful experience that we encourage you to pursue. It is a valuable experience that provides the opportunity for growth in both maturity and cultural awareness.

You should not study abroad because you are pre-health in an effort to make your application stand out. You should study abroad because you want to gain the experience.

If your study abroad program was through UC Davis Study Abroad or UC Education Abroad (UCEAP), then your coursework will be on your official UC Davis transcript and fullfil prerequisites. If you studied abroad directly through a foreign institution, then your coursework will be on a "foreign transcript," which most health professional schools do not accept.