Dentists are concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of problems associated with the hard and soft tissue of the mouth. They examine teeth, mouth, and associated tissues, diagnose and treat diseases, restore defective teeth and tissue, and replace missing teeth. Most dental students enter a practice after receiving their professional degree, either a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.). The two degrees are equivalent in terms of the program completed and the rights conferred to practice. Most dentists are self-employed and establish a private practice alone or in partnership with other dentists. Employment opportunities also exist in the public health service, as teachers and researchers in dental education, commissioned officers in the armed services, and researchers or practitioners in industry. In addition, some dentists enter advanced education programs for training in a dental specialty.
The D.M.D. / D.D.S. curriculum requires at least 11 academic semesters over four calendar years. The curriculum initially emphasizes the basic sciences with an expanding emphasis on the clinical sciences. The student's knowledge and familiarity with the basic sciences is reinforced with applied courses in each discipline. Dental specialties require additional training after the D.D.S. or D.M.D.
Typically, D.D.S. / D.M.D. programs expect a BA or BS with the following undergraduate curriculum:
- 1 year Biology with lab (BIOL 204-206)
- 1 year Chemistry with lab (CHEM 121-123)
- 1 year Physics with lab (PHYS 114 - 116 or PHYS 121 - 123)
- 1 year Organic Chemistry with labs (CHEM 351-353 and CHEM 354 and 356 [or 355])
- 2 quarters of Microbiology (BIOL 345, 346) [or BIOL 245]
- 2 quarters of Biochemistry (CHEM 471, 472 or BIOL 471, 472)
- 1 year English composition
At Western, there are an estimated 100 students pursuing some type of pre-dental curriculum. Western, however, does not offer a "pre-dent" major, and there is no formula for getting into dental school. There is no "preferred" major to gain admission to dental school. If you are interested in the pre-dental program, you should contact the Pre-Healthcare Professions Advising Office (OM 280 or 650-4240).
An applicant's undergraduate major is not a factor in dental school admission, so students may complete these prerequisites as major requirements, general education requirements, or as electives. Admissions requirements do vary somewhat from school to school, so students should consult the Official Guide to Dental Schools directory, at www.ADEA.org, to determine the specific requirements of the programs in which they are interested.
Students who have received Advanced Placement (AP) credit need to be aware that dental schools vary considerably in their acceptance policy of AP credit, as reflected in the Official Guide to Dental Schools directory. It is recommended that you develop an undergraduate curriculum that will include courses in the prerequisite disciplines that will demonstrate your ability to perform successfully at the college level. Be sure to check the specific AP policy for each school to which you may be interested in applying.
Observing in the office of a general dentist is the best way to learn about dentistry, and the Student Admissions and Recruitment Committee of the America Dental Education Association (ADEA) recommends that applicants make arrangements to observe in the offices of one or more general dentists. Many dental schools expect significant hours of "shadowing" experience for all applicants. Shadowing is seen by the admissions committee as one measure of an applicant's interest in dentistry as a career.
All dental programs require that applicants take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). All applicants for admission must have taken the DAT within three years of application.
The Application Process
The application process for students applying to dental programs begins a full two years before matriculation. Therefore, a student who wishes to begin a program the September after graduation needs to contact the Pre-Healthcare Professions Advising office no later than September of their junior year to begin the process. Pre-dentistry students are strongly urged to begin consulting with the Pre-Healthcare Professions Advising office as soon as possible after beginning their studies at Western
A valuable source of information is the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). Contact them at:
American Dental Education Association
1625 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-2212
Tel: 202-667-9433 Fax: 202-667-0642
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