How to Become a Dentist

dentist school

The process on how to become a dentist is really one of time and commitment. Dental school programs award the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Earning a doctoral degree in dentistry usually requires four years of additional study (after undergraduate study).

How to Become a Dentist: Applying to Schools

The American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), sponsored by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), is a centralized application service for individuals applying to dental school. AADSAS simplifies the application process for both applicants and schools by allowing applicants to complete one application form. Information is then sent in a standardized format to each school requested by the applicant.

In addition to the centralized application, applicants applying to dental school need to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). This test should be taken a year prior to seeking admission. The DAT is a computerized test which measures general academic abilities, an understanding of scientific information and perceptual ability. In order to take the DAT, students should complete at least one year of college-level courses in biology, and general and organic chemistry. Along with DAT scores, dental school's may review other credentials such as academic grade point averages (GPA's), recommendation letters, and conduct personal interviews.

How to Become a Dentist: The Interview

dentist school

Many dental school interviews are usually designed to assess a candidate qualities, such as a desire to help people, self-confidence, ability to meet challenges, get along with people and one's capacity to work independently. The personal interview should also be looked at as an opportunity to ask questions about the school and its program. Most admission decisions are made after the interviews. How you come across during the interview may be as important as both grades and test scores. In order to prepare for the interview, here are some helpful interviewing tips:

    Before the interview:
  • Learn a-s much as you can about the dentist school you're applying to. Use informational resources like the ADEA Official Guide for Dental School or the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) Handbook: A Resource Guide for Dental School. Also review your application, becoming as familiar with it as the interviewer. Also, speak with other dental students at the school to get their perspective.
  • If possible, schedule your interview with your first choice last. Doing this will help you gain experience during the interview process with other schools, and better prepare you with your preferred choice.
  • Do a mock interview with an advisor or mentor.
    Interview Day:
  • Dress for the interview as you would for a job. Business attire is recommended.
  • Arrive at the interview early so that you can be relaxed and not feel rushed.
  • When discussing your interest in the dental school, include the information you gathered from the resources.
  • Allow the interviewer to direct the conversation. Remember, they are interested in you and looking to see if you match what they've read. Allow them to do so.
  • Answer questions in a clear and positive manner; maintain good eye contact and posture.
  • Interview the interviewer. Find common ground and initiate the conversation in areas where you feel secure. Ask relevant questions that demonstrate interest, initiative and maturity.
  • Closing the Interview. If unable to offer you admission at this time, ask the interview about when you can expect to hear from them. You may also ask about your following-up by phone.
  • Thank the interviewer for their time, reaffirming both your interest and qualifications for admission.

How to Become a Dentist: Application Rejections


While applicants can be accepted to a dental school as early as December of the admission year and as late as the first of class of the entering year, many qualified applicants are denied admission to dental school. The reasons can vary: low GPA and DAT scores, weak recommendation letters or personal statements, etc. Although granted an interview with this data, your interview may have been the deciding factor. If possible, speak with the admissions committee to find out how to increase your chances of admission, if you intend to reapply.

If you are unable to discuss the rejection with a school official, speak with a mentor or advisor who may possibly help you to find the reasons for rejection. Then develop and implement a plan to correct what you perceive to be the problem before reapplying. While situations are different, there are some ways to increase your chances of admission to a dental school program:

  • Look into programs that focus on how to become a dentist by offering dental school preparation. Some programs may require that the applicant been denied admission.
  • Reevaluate the schools you applied to, as well as those you did not. If you had applied to the other schools, do you think you may have been accepted? Should you include these schools when reapplying?
  • There are dental schools that have Masters and Ph.D. programs in oral biology and public health dentistry. Admission to those programs is not as competitive as dental school. If you are successful in such a program, entering a dental school through this vehicle is more likely as your capabilities in a dental education setting has been demonstrated.

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