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The Breakdown

Though we might dread our visits to their offices, there is no arguing that dentists serve an important role.  They strive to keep our gums healthy, our teeth free of plaque and our smile beautiful.  If you’re interested in biology, helping people and all topics concerning the mouth then pre-dentistry is likely the track for you. 

While most colleges and universities don’t actually offer pre-dentistry studies as a major, many do offer programs to advise dental school-bound students and ensure they fulfill all the necessary pre-requisites.  They also help to make sure that you’ll be ready to conquer the Dental Admission Test (DAT), a requirement for dental school applications.

Fortunately, though it’s common for pre-dentistry students to major in biology or chemistry, dental schools don’t require or favor any particular major.  As long as you fulfill the pre-requisites you are free to study anything from studio art to philosophy.  Of course, you will be expected to have a strong foundation in the natural sciences.   

Pre-dental students are typically the studious sort.  Armed with an affinity and talent for the sciences, they rely heavily on strong quantitative and analytical skills.  Of course, since they aim to enter a people-focused industry, communication skills are also quite necessary.  Finally, they are known to floss after every meal. 


Nuts and Bolts

Pre-dentistry students can expect to take a science-laden curriculum featuring classes such as: Principles of Biology, Principles of Chemistry, Human Physiology, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Calculus, Cell Biology, Human Anatomy and General Physics.

Decisions, Decisions

Aspiring dentists are fascinated by health and the sciences.  Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising if they also decided to study biology, chemistry, biochemistry, pre-medical studies, pre-veterinary studies, nursing, public health, human development, pre-pharmacy studies, pharmacology, physician assistant, physical therapy or pre-optometry. 

What's Next

All right, if you have your sights set on pre-dental studies, chances are both dental school and a career in dentistry are in your future.  While earning a bachelor’s degree is an important and necessary first step, you’ll also have to take the aforementioned Dental Admission Test (DAT).  The DAT is used to assess both your academic aptitude and your scientific knowledge and intuition.  Further, dental school itself is a four-year endeavor.  The first two years involve classroom and laboratory work, covering topics such as oral pathology, dental anesthesia and radiology.  The last two years are clinical and you will diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of an instructor.  Unfortunately, the tests don’t stop upon graduation.  You’ll also have to pass the National Board Dental Examination, a two-part exam involving both a written and practical component.  Finally, if you’re interested in becoming a specialist (say in orthodontics or pediatric dentistry), you’ll have to complete an addition 2-4 years of postdoctoral education, specialty licensure and perhaps a two-year residency as well.  Phew, it’s certainly hard work to ensure people have beautiful smiles.



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Don Munce