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Pre-Dental Requirements: Courses You’ll Need for Dental School

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What’s Covered:


If you’re interested in becoming a dentist, you may be wondering how you can prepare for your career starting in college. In this post, we’ll cover the pre-dental curriculum requirements before entering dental school. 


Typically, becoming a dentist takes 8 years: 4 years of undergrad and 4 years of dental school. However, for students who are set on the career path in high school, joint BS/DDS programs exist that allow students to complete both dental and medical school in as few as 5 or 6 years. If you’re in high school and curious about how to become a dentist, check out this post on steps to take from high school to become a dentist.


What Does Pre-Dental Mean and How Long Does it Take?


Pre-Dental is a career track in college, not a major. Pre-dental classes are often required in order to apply to dental school, but these courses are not a part of a specific major. Each dental school has different pre-dental requirements as well as recommended courses, so you should look into the specific requirements for each college before making your course selections. Generally, however, dental schools may require some of the following classes:


  • Biology (8 hours with lab)
  • Chemistry (8 hours with lab)
  • Organic chemistry (8 hours with lab)
  • English (8 hours)
  • Physics (8 hours)
  • Anatomy (8 hours)
  • Mathematics


After completing a major and required coursework for dental school, students must prepare for the Dental Admission Test (DAT). This exam tests students on biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning. The test takes 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete.


What Other Classes Should You Take as a Pre-Dental Student? 


Besides required courses for dental school as well as your major, some schools suggest that students take calculus or statistics, psychology, and even business or a foreign language. These classes not only show that you are prepared for dental school, but also that you have a  well-rounded course load that has exposed you to many different disciplines. 



Students who are on the pre-dental track often pursue science majors, but it is not required. Here are a few of the most common majors for pre-dental students:


  • Biology: According to the American College Dental Association, the majority of students considering a dental career major in biology or chemistry. The topics covered in the biology major provide a solid foundation in health and medicine and also prepare students for the biology section of the DAT. Additionally, students in the biology major take classes in anatomy and genetics, furthering their knowledge of human health.


  • Chemistry: This is another popular major for pre-dental students. Chemistry can be an excellent major since many classes are lab-based, which will prepare you for classes in dental school. Additionally, chemistry majors are often involved in research at their universities which can look great on dental school applications.


  • Biomedical Engineering: This can be another great option for pre-dental students. Students in this major have the best of both worlds–they understand the biological systems and processes as well as the engineering concepts. Biomedical engineers can make great dentists because they understand how inventions in dental technology, such as dentures or implants, impact patients from a biological and engineering perspective. Many students with this major also pursue dental research.


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  • Physics: As a STEM-heavy field, physics can prepare you for dental school by providing you with quantitative skills that can help you on the DAT. Additionally, many of the theories that you learn as a physics major can be directly applied to dental school. For example, lessons on electricity and magnetism can be applied to lessons on dental x-rays.


  • Sociology: You shouldn’t feel like you have to major in a STEM field if you have another interest. Majoring in sociology, for example, can teach you how factors such as race, gender, and social class affect health and personal outcomes. 


What are the Other Dental School Requirements or Recommended Activities?


Dental schools look for students who are dedicated to the field, have a high GPA, and are involved in dental research or hold other leadership positions. Other than completing pre-dental requirements and taking the DAT, students considering dental school are recommended to conduct dental research through their universities, shadow dentists, or become involved in pre-dental clubs. Additionally, students should make connections with their professors and research. These connections can help you get strong letters of recommendation which will be helpful for your dental school application.


Important Resources for Pre-Dental Students


As you determine what dental schools you want to apply to and ultimately attend, you should look for certain important opportunities in your undergraduate education. These opportunities, listed below, can help you increase your chances of being accepted to dental school.


Research Opportunities


As you research colleges to attend, you should consider looking for colleges that have strong undergraduate research opportunities. Conducting research allows you to work on the latest issues in dentistry and further your knowledge of the field. Also, conducting undergraduate research looks great on a dental school application, and your advisor can provide you with a strong letter of recommendation.


Pre-Dental Advising 


Knowing what classes to take and how to get involved can be confusing, especially as a college freshman. You should look for a university with an advising program with pre-dental advisors who can help you through every step of the process.


Pre-Dental Extracurriculars


Although not required, becoming involved in a pre-dental organization can look great on your dental school application. Plus, you can grow your network by meeting like minded individuals who are also interested in becoming dentists.


Are you still interested in becoming a dentist, and want to know what undergraduate college may be a good fit for you? Check out CollegeVine’s chancing calculator! This free tool factors in your GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, and more to determine your chances of acceptance at various schools across the country. Additionally, the calculator will provide tips on how you can improve your profile.


Short Bio
Juliette is a senior at Cornell University studying Industrial & Labor Relations. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, running, drinking coffee, and exploring different hiking trails in Ithaca.