Doctor of Dental Surgery

In the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health program at NWHSU, you will take the credits you need to be competitive in your dental school application. Through coursework and attentive advising, you will feel more than prepared for the rigorous admission examination and academic setting of dental school.

Pre-dental students in the PBPH program will work with Dr. Lawrenz-Smith  to design an appropriate academic plan and complete a strong application.

Becoming a Doctor of Dental Surgery

Dentists are doctors who specialize in oral health. Dentists’ areas of care include not only their patients’ teeth and gums but also the muscles of the head, neck, and jaw, the tongue, salivary glands, the nervous system of the head and neck, and other areas.

The level of education and clinical training required to earn a dental degree, and the high academic standards of dental schools, is on par with that of medical schools and is essential for preparing dentists to practice safe and effective modern oral health care. Most dental students have earned Bachelor of Science degrees or their equivalent, and all have passed rigorous admission examinations.

The curricula during the first two years of dental and medical schools are essentially the same — students must complete such biomedical science courses as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, immunology, and pathology.

During the second two years, dental students’ coursework focuses on clinical practice — diagnosing and treating oral diseases. After earning their undergraduate and dental degrees (eight years for most) many dentists continue their education and training. Some go on to achieve certification in dental specialties.

Preparing for Dentistry School

Majoring in science is not a must, but completion of pre-dental science requirements is necessary. All prerequisite courses need to be completed with a C or above by the spring semester for enrollment the following fall. Science coursework must include both lecture and lab instruction and may be considered outdated if taken more than five years before the time of application.


Required courses generally include*:

  • English-8 semester credits. Two composition courses are preferred; or one composition course, and one additional course in either literature, humanities, or public speaking that is writing intensive.
  • General Biology or Zoology-8 semester credits. General zoology alone is acceptable, but not preferred.
  • Physics-8 semester credits. Complete basic course series required.
  • General Principles of Chemistry-8 semester credits. Complete basic course series required.
  • Organic Chemistry-8 semester credits. Course content must include study of both the aliphatic and aromatic series. One-semester courses generally do not have sufficient credits or depth to be acceptable.
  • Biochemistry-3 semester credits. The appropriate course will have the organic chemistry sequence as a prerequisite. Lab is not required.
  • Mathematics-A minimum of 3-semester credits of college algebra or a higher-level course. Some examples include pre-calculus, calculus, or statistics.
  • Applied Human Psychology-3 semester credits in: general human psychology, child and adolescent human psychology, or business psychology.

It is also strongly suggested that applicants include upper-level science electives in their curriculum. Competitive applicants will take a combination of the following preferred electives: art (3-D drawing or sculpture), cell biology, histology, human anatomy, microbiology, physiology, genetics, immunology, and statistics.

*Based on requirements for the University of Minnesota, you should contact individual dental schools for specific prerequisite information.

Applying to Dental School

Applications for all dental schools are submitted via a centralized application portal. The portal opens annually on June 1 and you are encouraged to apply early. Pay close attention to school-specific deadlines.

Application Portal

Application components

There are five main components to the application:

Personal statement 
Your personal statement is a one-page essay (not to exceed 4,500 characters, including spaces.) that gives dental schools a clear picture of who you are and, most importantly, why you want to pursue a career in dentistry. It needs to tell a story that gives the reader a clear picture of your choices and how you will be an asset to the school and the profession.

Orientation to dentistry statement 
Applicants must submit a written statement about their observation of and participation inpatient care in general dentistry practice. This statement should include what you learned and how those experiences influenced your decision to pursue a career in dentistry. Statements should not exceed 6000 characters without spaces.

Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
The DAT is required for dental school admission. The test has 4 sections:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences (100 item)
    • Biology (40)
    • General Chemistry (30)
    • Organic Chemistry (30)
  • Perceptual Ability (90 items)
  • Reading Comprehension (50 items)
  • Quantitative Reasoning (40 items)

DAT scores are based on the number of correct responses obtained and the DAT results are reported in terms of scale scores. These scale scores are neither raw scores (number correct) nor percentiles. The conversion of raw scores to scale scores is accomplished using equating procedures. The DAT is scored on a 1-30 basis and the national average is 18-19.

We recommended you study for this exam for several months after you have completed your coursework. There are free online options as well as a host of programs that have in-person classes, online classes, and individual tutoring. You should take several full-length practice tests.

Transcript (and GPA) 
Associated American Dental Schools Application Service reports three different GPAs to the schools: the overall GPA (which includes original grades for any repeated courses); the science GPA (which also includes grades for math courses); and the BCP GPA (which is a calculation of an average for all biology, chemistry and physics courses).

GPA (overall and science) is viewed in terms of consistency and improvement, but the quality of coursework and challenge per term are also considered. Applicants are required to provide written documentation of academic difficulties (e.g., “I,” “W,” “D” and “F” grades). Only under unusual circumstances will credits graded on a satisfactory/no credit evaluation system be accepted for required courses.

Applicants may submit a maximum of the following percentage of “S” credits in elective courses: 10 percent of the minimum total credits for 3-year students, and 15 percent of the minimum total credits for 4-year students. Incomplete grades are looked upon with disfavor by the Admissions Committee. Any incomplete and withdrawal grades must be explained in the application.

Activities Tracker

Download the Activities Tracker 

Letters of Recommendation
Individual Letter: individual professors, advisors, dentists you have shadowed and other professionals qualified to recommend you for dental school write and submit their own individual letters of evaluation. Most dental schools require two letters from science professors, one from an advisor and one from a dentist.

Committee Letter/Packet: If your institution constructs committee letters/packet in lieu of individual letters of evaluation, then it has a pre-health advising committee, or the advising office has constructed a committee, to discuss individual students and then write a combined letter of evaluation.

A committee letter/packet counts as one letter of evaluation in the American Dental Education Association AADSAS application. Often, committees are comprised of five to 15 people.

Composite Letter: This is similar to the committee letter, but instead of the advisor ultimately writing the letter, a few people on the committee write notes and/or letters about you and then submit them to the advisor who then writes a cover letter for the packet based on the notes the committee members wrote about you. The composite letter also counts as three letters of evaluation in the ADEA AADSAS application.

Other Resources and Opportunities

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