Dentists are professionals who focus on the hygiene and health maintenance of the teeth and mouth. They have obtained either a Doctor of Dental Medicine or Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from an accredited four-year dental school. Admission to dental school is competitive and schools use many factors in searching for the right students, including grade point average, Dental Admission Test scores, personal experience and unique abilities and skills. Although application requirements vary among programs, most dental schools share similar prerequisite coursework, with an emphasis on the sciences and mathematics.
Future dentists begin by taking two semesters of general biology and related lab work, which covers basic concepts from cell and molecular biology to physiology and evolution. These introductory biology courses, in addition to more advanced coursework such as genetics, cell biology and anatomy and physiology, will be essential for both the DAT exam and the dental school curriculum. The Natural Sciences section of the DAT assesses knowledge of cell and molecular biology, biological diversity, physiology and anatomy, developmental biology, genetics, evolution and ecology.
General and Organic Chemistry
Pre-dental students should also take two semesters of general chemistry with lab in addition to one semester of organic chemistry with lab. A semester of biochemistry is also often recommended or required for dental school admission. The DAT covers topics in general and organic chemistry, including the periodic table and properties, atomic and molecular structure, acids and bases, stereochemistry and aromatics and bonding. Some dental schools, like the one at New York University, require two semesters of organic chemistry.
Physics and Mathematics
Two semesters of general physics, with lab, are often required for students planning on entering dental school. The physics courses may be calculus-based, so students should plan on taking calculus before their physics courses. In addition, dental schools generally recommend two mathematics courses, most commonly statistics and calculus courses. Some dental schools, such as Johns Hopkins University, require two semesters of calculus. The quantitative reasoning portion of the DAT also tests students' knowledge of algebra, geometry, statistics and trigonometry, so pre-dental students should be familiar with these topics as well.
Humanities and Social Sciences
Dental schools look for well-rounded students who can maintain excellent grades in addition to developing an array of additional skills and abilities. Therefore, most dental schools require students to take a few courses in the humanities and social sciences before admission. According to the University of Florida College of Dentistry, students must take English grammar and composition and general psychology courses. Students may also wish to learn a foreign language. Pre-dental students can be admitted from any major, from psychology to business and management, although many do choose a science, because of the required prerequisites.
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