There are 60 dental schools in the United States, as of 2010. Because of the relatively limited number of schools, admission is highly competitive. While it is commonly assumed that admission to dental school requires an applicant to have one of a handful of specific undergraduate degrees, there is generally no such requirement. Dental schools do not even typically require you to have completed an undergraduate degree before being admitted. Most schools simply require two years of preprofessional education. Essentially, this means that a student may complete two years of undergraduate study and then enter a dental school to complete his education. In practice, however, most applicants have completed their undergraduate degree prior to entering dental school.
While most dental schools do not require an undergraduate degree in a specific major to qualify for admission, most have a list of courses an applicant must have taken at the college level prior to being admitted. Generally, these courses include one year of inorganic chemistry, one year of organic chemistry, one year of physics and one year of English. Some schools have less onerous requirements. For example, the University of Connecticut's School of Dental Medicine requires one year of general biology with a lab component, one year of general chemistry with a lab component and physics with a lab component.
In addition to the required courses, many dental schools recommend that applicants take certain undergraduate courses to help them better prepare for dental school. The University of Connecticut's School of Dental Medicine recommends that applicants have taken biochemistry, cell biology and molecular genetics. Marquette University's School of Dentistry recommends that you take anatomy, cell biology, genetics, microbiology and physiology.
Although there are typically no required majors for admission into a dental program, there are several majors that pre-dental commonly pursue. These include chemistry, biology, physics and other majors within the hard sciences. These majors typically have course requirements that overlap with the commonly required courses for dental schools. Therefore, you can kill two birds with one stone by working toward a hard sciences degree. Another consideration, however, is the fact that dental schools, along with most professional and graduate schools, seek to create diversity in their student populations. Part of this diversity comes from having a variety of academic backgrounds. For this reason, it might be to your advantage to have majored in a nontraditional pre-dentistry subject, such as social sciences or humanities.
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