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Grad Program: Dentistry

Basic Information

The Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) is a four-year degree program designed to train future dentists in the scientific and clinical aspects of the field. Dentistry programs are generally very rigorous, providing students with a thorough introduction to the fundamentals of health sciences and lab work, extensive clinical training, and coursework in critical thinking, problem solving, and ethical issues.

Most D.D.S. programs follow the same general format. The first two years are comprised of pre-clinical coursework in the advanced study of basic biomedical sciences, such as biology, anatomy, and nutrition. While courses cover the entire human health system, they focus on the teeth, gums, mouth, and related bone and tissues. In the last two years of study, students spend the majority of their time in clinical rotations, learning to care for oral health in a variety of environments. Alongside clinical training, students take electives in areas such as endodontics (treatment of disease and injury in the root canal), oral and maxillofacial surgery (the upper and lower jaw and surrounding anatomy), pediatric surgery and pedodontics, orthodontics (corrections of bite abnormalities and facial irregularities), periodontics (treatment of the gums) and prosthodontics (oral implants, bridgework, dentures).

Schools usually do not expect applicants to have undergraduate degrees in pre-dentistry or pre-med studies. In most cases, as long as applicants complete the required prerequisite courses before entering into the program, they should be eligible for admission. In addition to meeting course requirements, students must take the DAT (Dental Aptitude Test), a multiple-choice test on organic chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, comprehension, quantitative reasoning and visual acuity.

Degree Information

There are 55 D.D.S. programs in the United States and 10 in Canada, all of which take roughly four years to complete. After meeting academic and clinical requirements, students are required to pass extensive clinical and written exams in order to graduate. From there, most continue their training in one of the 1,066 dental residency programs.

For students interested in a highly specialized or research-oriented career in dental sciences, several programs offer the Dentist-Scientist Training Program (D.D.S./Ph.D.), which combines the D.D.S. curriculum with extensive research experience. Some schools also offer M.S. and Ph.D. programs in Dental Science, which are generally designed for students who plan to work in dental research. M.S. programs usually require advanced coursework research, lab work, library, and seminar courses.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • What electives or specialty programs are offered?
  • What educational/professional background do faculty members bring to the program?
  • What type of research projects is faculty involved in? Are there research opportunities for students?
  • How is clinical time divided? How many different clinical environments are students exposed to?
  • Where do students do their clinical work? Are the related clinical facilities of good quality?
  • What are the board passing rates for recent graduates?
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