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

  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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Academic Preparation

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.

  • 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. 
  • HPA recommends that pre-dental students maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0, although many dental schools will have GPA averages above this minimum.
  • 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 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

Pre-Dental Experiences

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:

    • Health Related Internships through the Internship and Career Center (ICC)
    • Opportunities to publish and present research through the Undergraduate Research Center
    • Certificate Programs in Student Leadership
    • Global Health Internships through Study Abroad
    • Health Related Internships through the Washington Program
    • Becoming a Peer Advisor through one of many departments, including the First Year Experience Office
    • Becoming a Tutor through the many programs in SASC
    • Volunteering for the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference
    • Completing community service using the ICC Community Service Database
    • Participate in the planning of Cultural Events on campus
    • Join or create a student club
    • Volunteer at a Student Run Clinic

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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'sTips for Writing a Personal Statement for Dental School.

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.


See the ADEA’s How to Prepare for Your Dental School Interview

Supplemental Applications

See the 2017 ADEA AADSAS Supplemental Information to learn more about school-specific requirements and costs.

Choosing Schools

There are over 60 dental schools in the U.S. See the ASDA List of US Dental Schools.

There are a variety of factors that go into choosing which dental schools to apply to, including location, environment (i.e. urban), tuition, class size, focus or mission statement, etc. Spend some time researching schools online and create a spreadsheet that tracks the factors most important to you. HPA also recommends meeting with an advisor to discuss your school list.  

Dental Schools in California:

Loma Linda University School of Dentistry  

Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC  

University of California, Los Angeles, School of Dentistry  

University of California, San Francisco, School of Dentistry  

University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry  

Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine

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Frequently Asked Questions

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 small 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