Planning a Career in Dentistry
Dentistry is a rapidly changing field, concerned not only with the repair of teeth but also the restorative and preventive treatment and maintenance of the gums and all the oral tissues.
Most dentists engage in general family practice, while about one in ten goes into one of the eight recognized dental specialties: public health, endodontics, oral pathology, oral surgery, orthodontics, pedodontrics, periodontics, or prosthodontics. A few enter dental education or research.
The opportunities are highly diverse and provide the practitioner an appealing combination of health care professionalism and personal freedom. Many students are attracted to careers in dentistry because of the continual need for dentists, the scientific interest and challenge of the profession, and the respected position of dentists in the community.
Admission to Dental School
The most decisive factors in acceptance of a student by a dental school are undergraduate grade point average and performance on the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The DAT includes subject areas of biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. Tests of reading comprehension, quantitative ability, and two- and three-dimensional perceptual ability are also included. Therefore, the biology and chemistry sequences must be completed in the first three years of work. Physics, though required for admission at most dental schools, is not included in the DAT and can be deferred until the senior year if necessary.
Letters of recommendation are the next determining factor when letters must be provided. At least one or two recommendations are to be written by college professors who have taught or worked with the applicant. At least one letter should be written by a dentist that that the student has shadowed with before applying to dental school. At least 200 hours of volunteer shadowing are recommended. The fourth factor in admission is the interview, granted only to the most promising applicants and held on the dental college campuses. GC graduates are successful at getting into dental school and well prepared to succeed when they get there.
In order to apply to dental school, education following high school will normally consist of four years of college. Generally, undergraduate students on-track to graduate in four years may apply to dental school after completing three years (90 semester hours) of undergraduate coursework that includes the prescribed predental curriculum. Many predental students major in biology or chemistry, but any major is acceptable as long as the student meets the minimum requirements for dental school admission.
The preprofessional requirements for the Dental School at the Georgia Health Sciences University (GHSU) are listed below.
- One academic year of general biology or zoology with lab
- One academic year of general chemistry
- One academic year of advanced chemistry, one semester of which must be organic chemistry with lab followed by a second advanced chemistry (biochemistry is preferred over organic chemistry, but completing the organic sequence and taking biochemistry would be even better).
- One semester of physics with lab
- Must be a Georgia resident
Applicants must earn a grade of C or better in all required courses. Even so, excelling in all your coursework as an undergraduate is expected. To underscore this point those dental students entering GHSU in the fall of 2010 had an average GPA of 3.6 and only a little more than 20% of the applicants were enrolled. Other suggested courses (not required) include genetics, cellular and molecular physiology, comparative anatomy, microbiology, marketing, personnel management, psychology, or art classes requiring painting or sculpture.
Admission requirements at another dental school may vary, so you should always investigate this yourself on the school's web site or even contact it's admission office. The American Dental Association website provides information on dental careers as well.