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Pre-Dentistry Resources

Considering a Career as a Dentist

American Dental Association: Steps to Becoming a Dentist 
American Dental Education Association [ADEA] webpages Future Dentists and FAQ provide a good overview of the profession to prospective students.

CWU Does Not Have a Major in Pre-Dentistry. However, we do offer a set of prerequisite courses that prepare you for success on the Dental Admission Test [DAT] and entry into dental school. Dental schools are graduate level and looking for well-rounded applicants. While many students choose a field in the natural sciences for a major, many applicants from humanities or social sciences are accepted into dental school. Choose a major that is the best fit for you.


How To Become a Dentist

Plan on eight years of school (four for your Bachelors degree and four more in dental school). You’ll need to have good grades from your undergraduate degree, a solid score on the Dental Admission Test [DAT] and an application that shows you are well rounded and have completed substantive job shadowing and meaningful, relevant volunteering hours.  

Pass the Dental Admission Test
The American Dental Association's Dental Admission Test webpage is a good place to start for information about the DAT.  This is a four part test required for admission to all U.S. and Canadian dental schools, though how scores are used in the admission process is unique to each school.  The schools are looking to see if you are ready for dental school and if you have the potential to succeed.  The ADA recommends that you take the DAT during your second semester of your junior undergraduate year or in the summer between your junior and senior year. See the yearly updated DAT Candidate Guide for more information.

Complete Required Observation Hours
ALL dental schools require observation hours. Therefore, it is very important that you check the requirements at the specific schools you are interested in, but a general guide is to aim for 100 hours of volunteering and job shadowing combined. Make sure you include a general dentistry office in your volunteer or shadowing experiences. In addition, shadow several specialists. Also, vary the settings you work in. Try to visit solo practices, group practices and a low-cost community dental clinic, for example. Ask any dentist you have contact with if you can spend a day (or more) observing in his or her office. If you belong to the pre-dental club, ask other members of the club where they have gained experience. You can also “cold call” dentist’s offices. Call or e-mail offices in your area, and (politely) explain that you are a pre-dental student seeking to learn more about the profession and would like to know if the office has opportunities for shadowing or volunteering.

See Also:
American Student Dental Association [ASDA]: Get Into Dental School in particular, the ASDA’s Guide for Predental Students
U.S. News & World Report: How to Get Into Dental School and Become a Dentist
American Dental Education Association [ADEA]: Preparing for Dental School and the Dental School Applicant Quick Guide

How to Apply
The ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service [ADEA AADSAS] is the centralized application service for U.S. dental schools. The AADSAS does not make admission decisions.  It processes all applications. Information regarding school-specific deadlines for applying is available on the ADEA website.

NOTE: The AADSAS application includes an area where you can list your volunteer and observation hours.


CWU Coursework Recommended for Pre-Dental Students

While CWU can direct you toward strong coursework that will generally support your admission, we cannot be familiar with the specific requirements of all the individual schools. Please check requirements for individual schools as you prepare your applications.

Required at Most Dental Schools:

  • CHEM 181**, 182, 183* with labs (General Chemistry)
  • CHEM 361, 362, 363 with labs (Organic Chemistry)
  • CHEM 431, 432, lab may not be required (Biochemistry)
  • BIOL 181, 182, 183 with labs (General Biology)
  • BIOL 213 (or similar statistics course)
  • BIOL 323 (Microbiology)
  • PHYS 111*, 112, 113, OR PHYS 121*, 122, 123, OR 181, 182, 183 (General Physics)

*Starred courses within this section have MATH 153 as a prerequisite

Highly Recommended by Most Dental Schools (Required at Some Schools)

  • ART 280 (Sculpture)
  • BIOL 426 (Medical Mircobiology) - required at UW
  • BIOL 355 & 356 (Human Anatomy & Physiology)
  • BIOL 353 (Integrative Anatomy)
  • BIOL 354 (Developmental Biology)
  • BIOL 454 (Histology)
  • PSY 101** (General Psychology) (A General Education Course)

Generally Recommended (not required)

  • BIOL 430 (Cell Biology)
  • BIOL 425 (Molecular Biotechnology)
  • BIOL 421 (Immunology)
  • BIOL 422 (Virology)
  • PHIL 104** OR PHIL 308 (Moral Controversies OR Medical Ethics)

In addition, students should take a broad range of humanities and social sciences electives, such as sociology, psychology, Humanities, Philosophy, or Literature.


CWU Pre-Dentistry Advising and Faculty Contacts

We recommend you contact the advisor or faculty contact as early as possible to share your course plan.

College of the Sciences Advising Office
Advising for students with interest in pre-dentistry study paired with Biology or Chemistry majors.

Faculty Contact:
Dr. Linda Raubeson

Department of Biological Sciences
Office: Science Building, Room 338L
Phone: (509) 963-2734


Other Resources

American Student Dental Association [ASDA]: List of U.S. Dental Schools

Commission on Dental Accreditation [CODA]: List of accredited programs in U.S. and Canada

The ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct

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