FAQ

What does a dentist do? 

A dentist...

  • Evaluates the overall health of their patients while advising them about oral health and disease prevention.
  • Performs clinical procedures, such as exams, fillings, crowns, implants, extractions and corrective surgeries.
  • Identifies, diagnoses and treats oral conditions.
  • Performs general dentistry or practices in one of nine dental specialties.

What is the difference between a D.D.S. and a D.M.D.?

The simple answer is nothing. Both D.D.S. and D.M.D. mean the same thing—the dentist graduated from an accredited dental school. The D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees. D.D.S. and D.M.D. dentists both receive the same education and both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the American Dental Association (ADA). It’s up to each individual university to determine which degree is awarded.

How much does a dentist earn?

Though incomes vary across the United States and depend on the type of practice, the ADA Health Policy Institute reports in its most recent survey (2015 Survey of Dental Practitioners) that the 2014 average net income for an independent private general practitioner who owned all or part of his or her practice was $183,340. For dental specialists, it was $344,740.

What are the dental specialties?

There are nine recognized dental specialty options: Dental Public Health, Endondontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Periodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, and Prosthodontics. Learn more about each specialty in our Career options section.

What is the best major for dental school?

Many students interested in going to dental school are under the impression that they have to major in biology or some branch of science to be accepted to dental school. This is an incorrect assumption. A specific undergraduate major is not required for acceptance to dental school; however, a good foundation in the sciences is required.

Applicants with a well-rounded education, a variety of interests and personal experiences are ideal candidates and are encouraged to choose a major where they can demonstrate strong academic performance while focusing on developing a strong background in the sciences. Many programs also encourage students to take courses in social sciences and many dental schools have accepted students with majors in music, art history, engineering, math, humanities and sports administration, to name a few. Learn more in our Preparing for dental school section.

What are the pre-requisite courses necessary for dental school?

Traditionally, dental schools have selected candidates for admission who possessed:

  • Two semesters (three quarters) of biology with lab   
  • Two semesters (three quarters) of general chemistry with lab  
  • Two semesters (three quarters) of organic chemistry with lab  
  • Two semesters (three quarters) of physics with lab  

Some dental schools require additional upper-level biology courses such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology and biochemistry. Many schools strongly encourage applicants to take courses in the arts and social sciences. Learn more in our Preparing for dental school section.

What are the major factors in dental school admissions?

Dental schools consider many factors when deciding which applicants to accept into their programs. Many schools use a holistic review, which includes biographical and demographic information along with GPAs, test (DAT) scores and community service, to name a few.

We all hear about the importance of good grades and test scores, but most successful candidates for admission not only demonstrate academic potential, but also show through their actions and experiences that they are motivated, compassionate and have the potential to be caring, ethical health care providers. Learn more in our Application process section.

Why can’t I find a ranked list of dental schools? 

There is no official listing or ranking of dental schools. There are privately owned, non-ADEA or non-ADA sanctioned publications that allegedly rank dental schools according to the quality of their programs. Both ADEA and the ADA advise dental school applicants to view these rankings with caution. The bases for these rankings are questionable and those individuals who are most knowledgeable about dental education affirm the difficulty of establishing criteria for dental school rankings. ADEA and ADA recommend that applicants investigate on their own the relative merits of the dental schools they wish to attend.

What’s the minimum GPA I should have to apply to dental school?

The weight a dental school applicant’s GPA carries varies among dental schools and can, among other factors, be based on an individual school’s criteria and personal evaluation. While a certain GPA might be considered “strong” at one school, that same GPA could be considered “less strong” at another school. ADEA encourages predental and prehygiene students to contact schools directly regarding specific GPA criteria and discuss this with their prehealth advisors. It’s also important to remember that separate GPAs are recorded for your undergraduate coursework and your graduate coursework.  

If I have not received my DAT scores, can I submit my ADEA AADSAS application? 

Applicants can submit the ADEA AADSAS application without the DAT scores. ADEA AADSAS will obtain your official DAT scores electronically from the American Dental Association and send them to your designated dental schools.