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College Students

Predental Timeline

Freshman/Sophomore Years

  • Work with your Prehealth Professions Advisor to plan courses and experience that will help you to prepare to apply to dental school. To locate the health professions advisor on your campus, go to the National Association of Advisors to the Health Professions (NAAHP)
  • Begin to complete chemistry, biology, physics and organic chemistry requirements
  • Check out your career center’s dentistry-related resources
  • Join a dental-related student organization to get exposure to the dental profession
  • Consider job shadowing and /or volunteer experience
  • Consider alternative career plans
  • Attend your college’s health-related career fairs

Junior Year

Senior Year

  • Take advantage of “mock” interview practice with Prehealth Profession Advisor or Career Center staff before dental school admissions interviews
  • Complete forms for financial aid
  • Send thank you notes to evaluators, advisors and mentors

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Mentoring Program

Would you like to talk with a dentist in your community, ask questions and possibly observe first-hand (job shadow) a dental professional at work? Mentors can help you understand dentistry from the other side of the chair and provide guidance about pursuing dentistry as a career.

 Ask your local dental society for help.

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Join American Student Dental Association (ASDA)

Here’s what some ASDA members say about the benefits of membership:

“Changing the way the laws work and protecting dental students is truly the greatest benefit.”

“The Mouth and other ASDA publications help me understand what life as a dental student is all about.”

“As a high school student I found out just what I need to get prepared for dental school.”

Prepare for dental school by learning about current issues important to dental students and dentistry. Get the scoop about the dental school experience. ASDA publications are written by dental students and include these free publications:

  • Getting into Dental School: ASDA’s Guide for Predental Students
  • ASDA News (monthly newsletter)
  • Mouth (quarterly journal).

Visit or call 800-621-8099 to become a member.

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Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP)

This national Robert Wood Johnson (RWFJ) sponsored program is a free six-week summer dental school preparatory program (full tuition, housing and meals) offering eligible students intensive and personalized dental school preparation. The focus is on students in the first two years of their college education who are planning to attend dental school and are from specific minority or disadvantaged groups.

Find out more at

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Dental School Program

Earning a doctoral degree in dentistry usually requires four academic years of study. Dental schools award the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). The four years of study leading to the DDS or DMD degree progress as follows:

Years One and Two

  • Classroom and laboratory instruction in basic health sciences (including anatomy, biochemistry, histology, microbiology, pharmacology and physiology), with an emphasis on dental aspects
  • Basic principles of oral diagnosis and treatment, may practice on manikins and models, and may begin treating patients later in the second year

Years Three and Four

  • Students treat patients under the supervision of licensed dental faculty. Procedures cover the broad scope of general dentistry and include opportunities to work in a variety of settings, e.g., community clinics, hospitals and outpatient clinics.
  • Practice management courses include instruction in effective communication skills, the use of allied dental personnel and business management.

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Getting a License

All states require dentists to be licensed to practice. In most states, a candidate must graduate from a U. S. dental school accredited by the ADA Commission on Dental Accreditation and pass written and practical examinations to qualify for licensure.

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Additional Resources

Career Exploring

Explore Health Careers
Accurate, up-to-date health careers resource information for students and advisors that includes links to health-related education and training programs, financial aid resources, specialized learning opportunities, and current issues in health care.

Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA)
A national organization to promote career opportunities in the health care industry and enhance the delivery of quality health care for all. High school chapters explore a variety of health related careers including dentistry.

Learning for Life—Exploring Programs
Information about Exploring, Learning for Life's “hands-on” career exploration program, for youth 14-20 years old from a diversity of backgrounds. National network of Learning for Life offices available online.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
In-depth stories from the perspective of oral health research professionals in various settings, comprehensive career finder for health careers and Women in Dental Research, a DVD highlighting a variety of women in dental research careers.

Another NIDCR site,, highlights summer internship program opportunities for high school and college students. 

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Related Dental Associations

American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
National organization for dental education with the mission to address current issues influencing dental education. Members include all U.S. and Canadian dental schools, other dental education programs, corporations, faculty, and students.

American Student Dental Association (ASDA)
National student-run organization providing services and advocacy for students pursuing careers in dentistry. Helpful publications, membership available.

Hispanic Dental Association (HDA)
Information on the national organization of dental professionals involved in promoting and improving the oral health of the Hispanic community and providing advocacy for Hispanic oral health professionals across the United States.

National Dental Association (NDA) 
Organization dedicated to serving as advocates in the public arena and private sector to increase access to care for underserved. Involved in recruiting underrepresented minorities into the profession and improving the educational opportunities of minorities underrepresented in the oral health field.

National Association for the Advisors of the Health Profession (NAAHP)
Information for students exploring or planning a career in the health professions including locating a college health professions advisor and the helpful, supportive role of the health professions advisor.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)
Promotes efforts to improve oral, dental and craniofacial health through research, research training, and the dissemination of health information.

Society of American Indian Dentists (SAID)
National organization promotes dental health in the American Indian community; encourages American Indian youth to pursue a career in the profession of dentistry; serves as a resource for assistance to American Indian students interested in the profession of dentistry; provides role-model leadership; promote American Indian heritage and traditional values and promotes and supports the unique concerns of American Indian dentists.

Society of American Indian Dentists at the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health
Student Chapter of the Society of American Indian Dentist promotes the recruitment and retention of American Indian students into dental school and encourages the students to return to their American Indian communities to practice their dental profession. Provides specific resources for American Indian students including mentoring opportunities. The mailing address is: ASDOH Dental Clinic, ATTN: SAID-ASDOH, 5855 E. Still Circle, Mesa, AZ 85206.

Student National Dental Association (SNDA) 
Student dental organization made up of African-American, Hispanic, and American Indian backgrounds with the goal of improving the minority health manpower distribution among the minority populations.

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Other Programs

Pipeline Profession and Practice—Community Based Dental Education
Launched in 2003, it is designed to help increase access to dental care for underserved populations. Grants from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the California Endowment were awarded to 15 dental schools to develop community-based clinical education programs and to increase recruitment and retention of low-income and underrepresented minority students.

Summer Medical Dental Education Program (SMDEP)
A free (full tuition, housing, and meals) six-week summer medical and dental school preparatory program that offers eligible students and personalized medical and dental school preparation including intensive academic enrichment.

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