What does a dentist do?

The dentist focuses attention on the prevention and treatment of disease related to the mouth and face. Most dentists are in private practice, and their responsibilities include cleaning of teeth and checking for possible problems - diagnosing cancer of the mouth, gingivitis, and other oral diseases. Twenty percent of dentists focus their energies in specialties such as endodontics, oral surgery, oral pathology, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics, or public health dentistry. These specialties usually average 2 years of residency after graduation from dental school.

How long will it take to obtain a degree in dentistry, and what is the curriculum like?

It takes 4 years to complete the curriculum for the doctor of dental surgery (D.D.S.) or doctor of dental medicine (D.M.D.) degrees. The D.D.S. and D.M.D. degrees are equivalent and awarded to students who complete the similar dental programs. In a typical dental school, the first two years are spent on basic science - gross anatomy, neuroscience, microbiology, histology, biochemistry, etc. In the third and fourth years, students complete clinical rotations in the dental school facilities and with practicing dentists in the community to get supervised hands-on work with patients. For students interested in a specialty area, there are a variety of postdoctoral programs that last one to three years that lead to board certification in endodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics, etc.

Pre-Health Advisor

Matthew Collier, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
BDK Science Center 207
(937) 327-6395

What tests will I need to take to become a licensed dentist?

Students in dental school must pass several tests to practice dentistry. The National Dental Board Examination, a two part exam, is required to become a licensed dentist. After the second year of dental school, the student takes Part I of the National Board Dental Examination which covers anatomical sciences, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, pathology, and dental anatomy and occlusion. Part II of the National Board Dental Examination is a 1.5 day exam usually taken during the last year of dental school. Part II covers the clinical dental sciences, behavioral science, dental public health, and occupational safety. After final examinations in the fourth year, students must also pass the Northeast Region Board. This practical examination is administered by a rotating board of dentists who assess the future dentist as he/she performs dental procedures on patients.

What courses should I take at Wittenberg to prepare for dental school?

Most dental schools require the following courses:

  • 1 year of General Biology (170 and 180)
  • 1 year of General Chemistry (121 and 162)
  • 1 year of Organic Chemistry (201 and 302; sometimes Biochemistry can replace Organic Chemistry II)
  • 1 year of Physics (201 and 202 or 280)
  • 1 year English (101 and another English A course)
  • 1 year of Mathematics (one semester of calculus and another course)

While the above prerequisites apply to most dental schools, be sure to check the schools that you are interested in applying to for other required coursework, such as:

  • 1 semester of Microbiology (Ohio State)
  • 1 semester in Biochemistry (Ohio State, Indiana)
  • 1 semester of Human Anatomy and Physiology (Ohio State, Indiana)
  • 1 semester of solid art (e.g., Silver Jewelry, Ceramics)
  • 1 semester of Genetics or Molecular Genetics
  • 1 semester in Psychology
  • 1 semester of Business Management

Be sure to check the current admission requirements for each dental school in Admission Requirements: United States and Canadian Dental School which is put out by the American Association of Dental Schools or speak with the Pre-Health Professions Advisor.

What major should I pursue at Wittenberg if I am interested in dentistry?

You can choose any of Wittenberg's 20+ majors as long as you take the prerequisite courses required by the schools to which you apply. Up to 15% of all students matriculating to dental schools are non-science majors, so it is certainly possible to major in something outside of Biology, Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, or Chemistry. As far as the dental schools are concerned, they do not put much emphasis on whether you graduate with a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree - that choice is yours. Look at the prerequisite requirements for the schools that you are interested in and the degree requirements for your major to determine which degree is the best match for you.

Do I need to have medically related hours when applying to dental schools?

Yes. While most dental programs do not have specific minimum requirements for number of paid or volunteer hours spent with a dentist or members of a dental team, they do appreciate your consistent efforts to gain a more hands-on experience with the dental field. Volunteering for 2-3 hours each week during the semester demonstrates to the schools your loyalty and commitment to the profession at a time when they know you are already busy. In addition, students interested in dental school may choose to interview with the Pre-Health Professions Committee. This process requires you to have 100 health related hours at the time of the interview in the spring of your junior or senior year. Stories that you can relate from these experiences can vastly improve your interview performance.

Is it important that I participate in extracurricular activities while at Wittenberg?

Yes. While the schools do not require a specific number of extracurricular activities or leadership positions, they look for both in your application materials. They consider how many years you spent with each organization and how involved you appear to be with each one (e.g., leadership roles). The schools use your experiences in this area to better understand your ability to socially interact with others, your leadership potential, and your time management skills. They seek to recruit well-rounded individuals who can successfully balance a heavy academic load with medically related experience and extracurricular activities. If successful, they infer that you will rise to the challenge of their academic program when you have fewer non-academic commitments.

How can I locate the dental program that is best for me?

Start early. Identify 3-5 schools of potential interest before registering for classes in the spring of your SOPHOMORE YEAR. The courses listed above are common to many dental schools, but there may be additional requirements for the schools you are interested in. It is best to know about those requirements while you still have room in your schedule to fulfill them.

Do research. Go to the schools' websites and make a table of courses required, average GPA of their incoming class, and number of hours in a dental setting (if any). These will give you some idea of where you need to be academically when you graduate from Wittenberg, and the courses you need to take inside your major and in the general education program to make you a good candidate for that particular set of schools. Schools consider both your science GPA and your cumulative GPA, so it is not wise to prioritize your grades in science courses over those taken for your general education requirements.

Summarize your findings.Create a sample table of school information assuming all require general biology and general chemistry. Add a column for each different course as you encounter them as prerequisites at your schools of interest.

 Human A&PBiochemNutritionPsychSociO Chem IAverage GPADental hours
School 1XX X X  
School 2XXX XX  
School 3X  X X  

Evaluate your findings. Match your cumulative GPA with the averages for the last incoming class at each school. Read all web pages for hospitals/dental centers that have a specialty that interests you. Look for data that report on the percentage of students that have passed the board exams.

Always apply to the school(s) in the state where your parents are living and paying taxes. You have the best chance to get into the public school in that state, and the tuition at your in-state school is much less than at a private or out-of-state public school. Apply to the public and/or private dental school in your home state. If your parents live in Indiana, you should definitely apply to the Indiana dental school. Indiana residents who lived in Ohio for 4 years while attending Wittenberg get no preference from Ohio's dental schools. When choosing to apply to schools outside of your home state, choose schools that accept at least 30% of students from outside that state, usually private schools. This ensures that you at least have a chance to be interviewed. Apply mainly to private dental schools outside of your home state. In general, consider applying to between 2 and 4 dental schools.

Which schools are best for me to apply to outside of my home state?

Your best chance of getting into dental schools outside your state of residence is to apply to schools with relatively high out of state acceptance rates (>30%). These include:

  • Boston University Medical Center
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Columbia University
  • Creighton University
  • Harvard University
  • Howard University
  • Indiana University
  • Loma Linda University
  • Marquette University
  • Meharry Medical College
  • New York University
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Temple University
  • Tufts University
  • University of Colorado
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Louisville
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Pittsburgh

How and when should I apply to dental schools?

  • Consider going through the Pre-Health Professions Committee in your junior year (if you want to go directly to dental school after graduation) or senior year (if you want to take a year off after graduation before matriculating to a dental school) to get a thorough evaluation of your potential for dental school and a committee letter of evaluation written to be sent on your behalf to the schools. Dental schools typically expect these committee letters from their applicants, especially if you are a current college student or recent graduate, but students with strong credentials can get accepted without participating in this interview process.
  • Take the DAT in the spring or summer of that same year.
  • Apply to the dental schools of your choice using AADSAS by July 15. Detailed information is provided below.
  • Wait to receive secondary applications from your target dental schools, and return the completed forms to the schools as quickly as possible. If you chose to use the committee interview process, contact the Pre-Health Advisor and give her an envelope addressed to the dental school (neatly) with two stamps affixed to it and your name written on the inside flap. The return address should be Dr. Pederson's business address. This envelope will be used to mail your committee letter of evaluation to the dental school.
  • Wait and hope for interview invitations from your target dental schools.
  • Wait for the results of your application after the interview to find out if you have been accepted, wait listed, or rejected by that particular school.
  • You are at a disadvantage if you opt to take the DAT late or submit your materials late in the cycle - applications are often considered as they arrive, not at the time of the deadline. Complete and send your materials in a timely manner.

Do I need to go through the Pre-Health Professions Committee when applying?

While not required, students are encouraged to go through this interview process.Most dental schools prefer its applicants to have a composite letter of evaluation like the one generated by the Pre-Health Professions Committee, although some students with strong credentials have been accepted to dental school without participating in this process. The general prerequisites for going through the committee process are:

  1. 100 hours of health related experience
  2. Cumulative grade point average > 2.80
  3. Junior, senior, or alumni status

More information about the committee process can be found on the Pre-Health Committee webpage.

What is the Dental Admissions Test (DAT)?

The DAT is required by all dental schools as an assessment of the student's potential for survival in dental school. Because this is a content based test, you should have taken General Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry prior to taking this examination. The DAT is a computer based test administered on any business day only at a Prometric Testing Centers. The closest Prometric Testing Center to Wittenberg is located near the Dayton Mall on Lyons Road. Any student interested in taking this test registers through the American Dental Association ( and then receives a formal authorization letter which includes a window of time for the student to take the test. The test is entirely multiple choice, takes 4 hours and 15 minutes for administration, and consists of 4 separate examinations of roughly equal weight that cover the following:

  • Survey of natural sciences: covers content related to general biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.
  • Perceptual ability test (PAT): this test requires you to problem solve in 2 and 3 dimensions.
  • Reading comprehension: topics for this are taken from dental and basic sciences.
  • Quantitative reasoning: this involves algebra and numerical calculations and conversions. Calculators are not allowed for this section.

Do I need to coordinate my applications through a service?

Yes. The American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS, is a nonprofit, centralized service to facilitate the process of applying to participating U.S. dental schools. This service is required for application to 52 of 56 dental schools (the four that do not participate do not accept out-of-state students. Texas dental schools use their own service. Go to for details if you are a Texas resident). AADSAS benefits the applicant by collecting, coordinating, and processing all transcripts and other application materials for the dental schools. The applicant completes the AADSAS application, and AADSAS will send copies of your application to each dental school you specified on the application.

Do you have any tips for preparing an attractive application?

Filling out applications for these professional schools can be difficult and tedious, but require your best effort. Applications must be filled out completely and correctly or they will be returned to you. Having your application returned for further information delays contact with the admissions offices of your target schools. Pay particular attention to the required one page personal statement. If you chose to participate in the committee interview process, you have already received formal feedback - be sure to revise your personal statement essay! Have someone else assess your essay (i.e. Career Center staff, Writing Center, etc.) after your revision. Remember that you are trying to sell yourself to an admissions committee. Irrelevant details, poor sentence and paragraph structure, incorrect grammar, misspelling, typographical errors, etc. detract from the image you wish to create as their ideal candidate.

Which dental schools have Wittenberg students been accepted to in the last 10 years?

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Indiana University
  • Meharry Medical College
  • Nova Southeastern
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Tennessee
  • West Virginia University

What are some of the dental programs in this geographical area?

  Average DAT
OhioAvg. GPAAcademicPAT
Case Western Reserve3.3518.118.1
Ohio State University3.4919.019.0
New York
New York University3.1418.017.0
SUNY at Buffalo3.3617.617.5
SUNY at Stony Brook3.6119.217.6
University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry3.5419.018.0
University of Michigan3.4319.318.0
University of Illinois at Chicago3.3819.017.6
Southern Illinois University3.5018.217.0
Indiana University3.3618.017.1
University of Pennsylvania3.5319.317.1
University of Pittsburgh3.3418.317.2
Other Prestigious Schools

*These data come from the American Association of Dental Schools Admissions Requirements

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