Dental school curriculum

The dental school curriculum varies by school and often changes, but most schools follow the general structure outlined below. For more details on the curriculum of a specific school, visit the school website or reference the school’s profile in the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools.

The traditional dental school program is four years long.

First and Second Years: Biological science classes, begin clinical education through simulation

In the first two years of dental school, students spend most of their time studying basic biological sciences and learning the structure and function of the body and the diseases that can affect it.

Classes often include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Dental-oriented sciences
          • Oral anatomy
          • Oral pathology
          • Oral histology

        Students also often learn about how to care for a diverse array of populations and may interact with patients to provide very basic oral health care. Most of their training outside of the core classes in the first two years involves practicing procedures on models of the mouth and teeth.

        Third and Fourth Years: Mostly Clinical

        The last two years of dental school mostly involve clinical study (direct patient care) and some practice management instruction. Students will learn to care for chronically ill, disabled, special care and geriatric patients as well as children to ensure they have a wide variety of experience caring for all types of people.

        At many schools, students often rotate through various clinics, hospitals and other off-campus community settings, and work under the supervision of a clinical instructor. This gives students the opportunity to work closely with other health professionals and health professions students, giving them the appreciation of a team approach to health care delivery.

        Dental schools change their curriculums often to meet the needs of a constantly changing population, but this general outline tends to stay the same across all schools.