Dental school can prepare you to become a dentist, an orthodontist or a dental specialist. Admissions to dental schools can be competitive since the training is demanding and school officials want to select the best candidates to succeed. While there is no specific undergraduate degree that you must earn to be admitted to dental school, there are requirements for what kind of courses you should take.
Though there is no specific major that is required to get into dental school, the American Dental Education Association reports that most applicants do select a major in the biological sciences as preparation. In 2011-12, 59.6 percent of dental school applicants had an undergraduate degree in biological or biomedical sciences, the ADEA reported. Approximately 7.5 percent had degrees in health professions and related programs, 6.6 percent had degrees in the physical sciences and the remainder had degrees in everything from social sciences to business.
Most dental schools outline requirements for coursework that applicants must have completed before they can be admitted to dental school. In most programs, these courses include biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics and English. Science courses are generally required to include a lab component. At the UNC School of Dentistry, students must complete 96 credit hours, or at least three years of college courses, to be admitted. Virginia Commonwealth University also requires three years of courses, but the minimum number of credits is 90.
Grades and test scores are also considered when determining admissions for dental schools. Most programs require that students take the U.S. Dental Admission Test, and those scores are evaluated for anticipated student performance in the program. Some programs have a minimum GPA for admissions. Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health requires at least a 2.5 and considers the rigor of the course load when making a decision. Requirements vary by program, but the more competitive your GPA, the better your chances of being admitted.
The ADEA says that more dental programs are taking a "holistic approach" to admissions that considers the student's whole profile and not just grades and test scores. The organization notes that other important factors for admissions include involvement in a predental or prehealth student organization, demonstrated leadership, completion of a research project and volunteer work. Admissions officials are looking for students whose records indicate a dedication to the profession and an ability to succeed in an academically challenging program.