What is Dental Medicine?
According to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), dentistry is the branch of the healing arts and sciences devoted to maintaining the health of the teeth, gums, and other hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity and adjacent structures. A dentist is a scientist and clinician dedicated to the highest standards of health through prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of oral diseases and conditions. The dental profession includes not only those who provide direct patient care, but those who teach, conduct research, and work in public and international health. There are 58 accredited American dental schools. Graduates from these programs will earn either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree. It takes 4 years of dental school to attain the doctoral degree.
Choosing a Major
There is no preferred or required pre-dental major. Dental schools are interested in students from different educational backgrounds. Universally, dental schools know the importance of a broad liberal arts education that includes a solid foundation in the sciences (biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics) as well as coursework in the social sciences and humanities. Students interested in the health professions should choose a major based on their academic interests and abilities. High grades in a well-rounded curriculum are more important than a student’s major.
Pre-requisites at Wheaton
Most health professions schools require the same pre-requisite courses as listed below. Keep in mind that specific schools may have additional requirements. All courses should be completed by the end of the junior year for students planning to apply to dental school in the senior year. All students need to complete the pre-requisites before taking the Dental Admission Test (DAT).
Timeline for applicants
The following is the recommended timeline for applying to dental school starting the spring before the application year. These come from the American Dental Eduction Association (ADEA). Before June 1:
- Create your plan for applying to dental school
- Research dental schools and the dental school application process
- Identify individuals whom you are going to ask for letters of evaluation
- Register for, prepare for, and take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
Starting June 1:
- ADEA Associate American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) application opens
- Check schools' specific deadlines and submit your application early
- Follow AADSAS instructions to send official transcripts
- Follow AADSAS instructions to ask evaluators to sumbit letters of evaluation
- Monitor ADEA AADSAS application status online
Mid-November to February 1:
- Use Academic Update to report courses completed since submitting your application
- Dental schools begin extending offers of admission
- Start checking ADEA AADSAS application for admission status updates
- ADEA AADSAS application closes
- Academic Update closes
Grade point average and DAT scores
A minimum of a 3.4 overall and 3.3 in the sciences are considered good grade point averages for admission to dental school. Of course, individual schools can certainly have higher or lower averages for accepted students. A DAT score of 18 on the 1 to 30 scale is considered good.
Advanced Placement (AP)
AP credit may on some occasions be used to satisfy the English writing (Eng 101) and/or mathematics requirements. It is highly recommended that AP science courses not be used to satisfy any of the science pre-requisites since health professions schools expect you to have the classroom experience of taking science lab classes at the college level. If you do accept credit for an AP class in a required science course, the expectation is that you will take an upper-level science courses/labs in the science department to satisfy the health school requirement. AP credit equivalent to Wheaton's English 101 will waive writing requirement, but students still have to take a 200-level English course.
Though there is nothing that says a student cannot take pre-requisite science courses in summer school, students should remember that many of the health professions schools prefer that science classes be done during the semester to demonstrate the ability to take laboratory courses while registered for a full course load. Students considering taking a pre-requisite science course over the summer should consult with Dean Trayford.
Required pre-medical courses can never be taken pass/fail. Students should also think carefully when considering taking any other classes under this option. Health profession schools want to see if you are successful in many different areas of study, not just in the pre-requisite courses. Therefore, students are discouraged from taking any classes under the pass/grade/fail option. If there is a good reason for using this option, consult with Dean Trayford. Remember, take all science courses for a grade.
Health professions schools consider a student who studied abroad in a very positive light, particularly if the experience can be combined with health-care-related experiences. Students interested in studying abroad should definitely do so. It is important to plan ahead when thinking about studying abroad. Discuss your plans with Dean Trayford. Keep in mind though that pre-requisite courses cannot be taken during study abroad. The vast majority schools will not accept pre-requisite requirements taken at a foreign institution.