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Dentistry

Dentistry is a branch of medicine that concerns itself with the disorders and conditions of the oral cavity. Dentists attend dental school to earn a doctorate degree in dental surgery (D.D.S.) or dental medicine (D.D.M.). Entering into a dental school and becoming a dentist is a highly competitive endeavor that requires a student to demonstrate the highest levels of academic achievement as well as a strong desire to serve others. The journey to dentistry really begins in a student’s freshman year as they select their coursework and begin working towards their major.

Pre-Dental is not a major at the University of Houston. Therefore, you will need to pick a major that reflects what you are actually interested in learning. Indeed, there is no "best" major for pre-Dent students. Many pre-Dent students select a STEM major, such as Biology, because many of the required courses for admission into dental school are already included as a part of the degree-program. However, dental school admissions committees do not care which major you choose, as any major can lead to a career in dentistry. So when choosing a major, you should be looking for a field that you are interested in and one that will challenge you academically, rather than the major you believe will help you "stand out."

While GPA is important, dental school admissions committees can easily identify when an applicant has selected coursework or pathway that is not challenging. You will benefit more from taking difficult classes together, than taking each course in isolation.

Public TX Dental Schools:

  • Texas A&M University College of Dentistry
  • The University of Texas School of Dentistry at Houston
  • The University of Texas School of Dentistry at San Antonio
  • Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine

The basic course requirements for admission into dental school include:

  • Anatomy & Physiology: BIOL 3324/3224 (Physiology with Lab) and BIOL 4397 (Anatomy)
    • Note: BIOL 1334/1134 and BIOL 1344/1144 have been accepted by Texas A&M in previous admission cycles, but are not preferred. Our office recommends completing the advanced level A&P courses (see Texas A&M Dental for additional information).
  • Introductory Biology: BIOL 1361/1161 and BIOL 1362/1162.
  • General Chemistry: CHEM 1331/1111 and CHEM 1332/1112
  • Organic Chemistry: CHEM 3331/3221 and CHEM 3332/3222
    • Note: Even though Organic labs at UH are 2-credit hours, you are still expected to complete both CHEM 3221 and CHEM 3222 to fulfill the Organic Chemistry requirement for programs that require it.
  • Biochemistry: BCHS 3304
  • Microbiology: BIOL 3332
  • Physics: PHYS 1301/1101 and PHYS 1302/1102 or PHYS 1321/1121 and PHYS 1322/1122
  • English: ENGL 1303 and ENGL 1304
  • Statistics: MATH 2311 or MATH 3339 (others may count but please verify with our office first)
  • Additional Advanced Biology Courses (at least 2): BIOL 3301 (Genetics), BIOL 4323 (Immunology), BIOL 4374 (Cell Biology), etc.

The above requirements are true for the dental schools in Texas; however, it is important you review the specific requirements for each school you are interested in applying using both the dental school webpage and the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools.

You do not need to complete all pre-requisite courses to apply to dental school, but should have completed most of the required courses. All pre-requisites will need to be completed by July of the year you plan to matriculate. Finally, a C or better is required in all pre-requisite courses.

AP Credit Policy: Generally speaking, it is recommended you do not use AP credit to satisfy pre-requisites for dental school. That said, most TMDSAS participating institutions accept AP credit as long as the credit hours and course for which AP credit is used is clearly outlined in your transcript (which it is at UH). Non-TX dental schools are varied with regards to AP policy. It is important you review the specific admissions policies of all programs in which you to hope to apply.

The various applications for medical school (TMDSAS and AADSAS) calculate GPA in several different ways:

  • Overall (Undergraduate + Graduate, BCPM)
  • Undergraduate (overall, BCPM, non-BCPM)
  • Graduate (overall, BCPM, non-BCPM)

Your Overall GPA includes all coursework completed at the college-level. This includes all courses taken at the University of Houston, but also any coursework completed at other institutions (e.g., HCC, Lonestar, etc.). Additionally, all attempts are included in the GPA calculation, even if you withdrew (W) or received a better grade. You must submit a transcript from every institution attended to each application service. 

Science GPA within the TMDSAS application is calculated as BCPM: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics. The AADSAS application utilizes only BCP (and excludes mathematics courses). Coursework in other fields, even those in STEM (e.g., Engineering, Kinesiology, etc.), are excluded from the BCPM GPA. Some non-BCPM courses can still be factored into the BCPM GPA if they include 50% Biology content. If you received an A and are unsure, include it as BCPM. Each course will be evaluated during the verification process.

Yes, to a certain extent, you may complete pre-requisite courses outside of the University of Houston. However, our general advice is that if you are enrolled at the University of Houston, you should only take courses that fulfill prerequisite or requisite coursework for your degree plan or for your professional school application at the University of Houston. Taking 1-2 courses in the Summer outside of UH is not a big deal, but avoid making it a habit.

That said, if you are a transfer student bringing in credits from another institution, then you do not need to retake prerequisites for your professional school application. That includes transfer students who are transferring from community college as well as four-year institutions. The quality of your education will be tested in the coursework that you take once you enroll at the university. 

The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is the standardized, multiple-choice exam that dental school admissions use as a standardized metric to measure student preparation for dental school.

Students are required to the read the DAT Guide before submitting an application to test.

Length: 4 hours and 30 minutes

Sections: 

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences (includes Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry)
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Quantitative Reasoning (includes Algebra, Statistics, and Data Analysis/Interpretation)
  • Perceptual Ability

Cost: The registration fee is $445 which includes the exam and scores sent to the dental schools listed during registration. Sending scores to additional schools after the initial DAT application costs $36 each. Requests for ADA Partial Fee Waivers can be made starting on January 1 and applicants should apply ASAP.

Scores: Scores range from 1-30. A score of 19 is considered about average. Dental admissions committees group scores into the Academic Average (AA) and the Perceptual Ability Test score (PAT) It is recommended to score at least a 20 or greater on each section.

As of 2019, the average accepted applicant in Texas scored 21 (AA)/20 (PAT).

High DAT scores do not guarantee admission and should not be expected to outweigh a low GPA. Further, you should only take the DAT once you are adequately prepared for the exam. The idea is to take the real exam only once, though many applicants do attempt the test twice. The key is you must improve on your second attempt; therefore, retakes should not be taken lightly.

DAT Preparation: Preparation for the DAT can take many forms, whether through self-study or a formal test-preparation course. Most applicants dedicate at least 3-4 months to preparing for the DAT. This includes content review and practice tests. It is recommend you complete at least 5-6 full-length practice tests before sitting for the real exam. Doing so will allow you to build endurance for the exam as well as give you a better idea of where you "true score" lies.There are a variety of DAT prep resources, each differing in both cost and teaching style.

The Pre-Health Advising Center does not endorse any specific test prep resource. We encourage you to explore each of the different options to determine which will best fit your needs.

Typically, you will apply to dental school during the Summer term between your Junior and Senior years. That said, one of the most important decisions you will make in the application process is deciding when to apply. There is no one timeline that fits all students. It all depends on when you can submit your strongest possible application.

A lot of planning must go into preparing a competitive application, so it's important to carefully consider your timeline. Our office emphasizes the importance of applying when you are the most competitive applicant you can be; do NOT rush your application timeline. Being competitive relies on both academic and extracurricular plans AND experiences. You will need to assess when you will be the most competitive applicant.

Things to consider when determining your application timeline:

Academic Accomplishment

  • Have you finished ALL prerequisites? When will these be completed?
  • How have you performed in those courses? Do you need more time to improve?
  • When will you be ready to take your admission exam? You should not plan to take these exams multiple times.

Experience

  • Community service and clinical experience should be substantial and consistent. If you have just started, you may not be ready.

Support

  • Do you have professors/PIs/supervisors who can write letters of support?
  • Are your family/friends supportive of your goals?
  • Have you utilized the services of the UH Pre-Health Advising Center?

Your professional and personal goals

  • Are you sure of your professional goal?
  • Do you need/want some time for other experiences between undergrad and dental school?
  • Do you need time to save for/pay for your next program?

School Selection

Number of schools: UH students typically apply to between 3-10 dental schools. Our office recommends applying to at least all Texas-based schools.

Factors to consider:

  • Location I: Students have the best chance of admission at the public dental schools in their state of residency. Outside of your in-state school(s), consider private schools and other state public schools that accept a reasonable number of out-of-state residents.
  • Location II: Urban vs. rural setting, proximity to family, recreational opportunities, cost of living, etc.
  • Mission Statements: You should look for schools with mission statements that fit with your own goals.
  • Curriculum: Seek out information about the curriculum and consider how it fits with your learning style.
  • Cost: Consider tuition and type of financial aid available

Do not focus on “rankings”. In fact, the primary governing body of the dental schools (ADEA) does not rank or endorse any ranking of the accredited schools and programs within their organizations. There are no "safety" detnal schools. Each and every dental medical school in the U.S. has rigorous admission standards.

Once you have decided to apply, you will need to review the various application services used by the different medical schools:

Texas Dental Schools (TMDSAS)

  • Centralized Application Service: Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS)
  • Number of Participating Schools: All public Texas dental schools
  • Cost: $150 flat fee, which includes all TMDSAS participating dental schools.
  • Fee Assistance? No fee waivers available
  • Personal Statement: Two required, One optional.
    • Required: "Explain your motivate to pursue a career in dentistry. Include the value of your experiences that prepare you to be a dentist." 5,000 character limit
    • Required:"Learning from others is enhanced in educational settings that include individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Please describe your personal characteristics (background, traits, skills, etc.) or experiences that would add to the educational experience of others." 2,500 character limit
    • Optional: "Briefly discuss any unique circumstances or life experiences that are relevant to your application which have not previously been presented." 2,500 character limit
  • Application Timing: Students will apply in the summer of the year preceding their planned matriculation. TMDSAS opens in early May for submission. Students applying after Junior year should wait until their Spring grades are posted before applying.

Out-of-State Dental Schools (ADEA AADSAS)

  • Centralized Application Service: AADSAS - Associated American Dental School Application Service
  • Number of Participating Schools: 67 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico
  • Cost: $245 which includes one dental school designation. Each additional school is $99.
  • Fee Assistance? Yes, through the AADSAS Fee Assistance Program, which includes a waiver for all AADSAS fees for the first 3 dental school designations on your application.
  • Personal Statement Prompt:“In your personal statement, you will explain why you want to pursue a dental career.” 4,500 character limit
  • Application Timing: Students will apply in the summer of the year preceding their planned matriculation. The AADSAS application opens in early June.

Admission can never be guaranteed, but a competitive applicant dental school has:

  • Strong GPA (>3.5)
  • Strong DAT (>19-AA/19-PAT)
  • Pattern of taking challenging coursework and credit-load (>12/semester)
  • Extra-curricular involvement (leadership in student organizations, research, employment, etc.)
  • Consistent volunteer experience
  • Experience in or exposure to the dental field (shadowing, volunteering, or employment)

The key is to perform well in your science classes, do well on the DAT, and pursue activities and opportunities that introduce you to the field of dentistry. It also important that you follow your interests as well, even if they are not directly related to dentistry or healthcare. Sports, literature, film, music, acting, dancing, hobbies, and any sort of competition all fall in this category. Admissions committees value applicants that well-rounded and have interests outside of dentistry and medicine. 

A well-rounded person has interests that broaden them and that is what your extra-curricular activities should do for you. By definition, extra-curricular implies something outside of coursework so it should be an activity that you participate in that does not count for course credit. Sports, literature, film, music, acting, dancing, hobby, and any sort of competition can all fall into this category. Dental schools do not want robots! Performing well in your classes is only one piece of what admissions committees are looking for.

Consider who you are and what makes you happy. What are the things that you like to do for fun? What do you do to "de-stress" and recharge? Well do them and do them regularly. Join clubs, learn more about the activity, become proficient and get excited about it. Be able to talk about it in depth and be able to teach others about it. If you can, get others excited about your interest, get them involved, and take on leadership roles, if applicable.

Most dental schools do not explicitly require shadowing hours, but instead strongly encourage potential applicants to investigate the field of dentistry and the job of a dentist, specifically. Therefore, shadowing and having conversations with dentists are an important part of confirming that this is the career path that you wish to pursue and proving to admissions committees that you understand what you are getting into. Importantly, most dental schools will require a letter from a general dentist with whom you have shadowed.

It is generally recommend that you shadowing for at least 50 hours, but there is no minimum or maximum. Often, your time is better spent volunteering or participating in other, more engaging, activities than shadowing, so do not feel compelled to shadow forever.  Shadowing is also important for simply confirming that the field of dentistry is something you are interested in and wish to pursue a career in.

Importantly, shadowing means hands-off observation only. Please refrain from participating in activities that could be construed as practicing dentistry (especially abroad). You are not yet licensed nor trained as a healthcare professional, therefore, use ethical decision-making in the choosing the activities you observe and participate in.

Here are some questions you could ask the dentist or dental specialist you shadow:

  • What do you like most about your work?
  • What do you find challenging about your profession?
  • Would you still pursue dentistry if you could go back in time?
  • What are some of the highlights of your work?
  • What gets you excited about coming to work every day?
  • If you were not practicing dentistry, what would you be doing?
  • How do you balance work and family life?
  • Do you participate in any community service?
  • If you could change something about the practice of dentistry, what would it be?
  • What did you think about your dental school experience? Do you have any advice?
  • What was the most challenging aspect of dental school?

Where do I begin?

  • Start by asking your personal dentist if he or she would be willing to be shadowed.
  • If your personal dentist is unable to be shadowed, ask if he or she can recommend another practitioner.
  • Ask your friends, your classmates, your friends’ parents, or your professors to see if their dentist might be willing to be shadowed.
  • Reach out to your local dental school to see if they have local alumni who would be interested in being shadowed.
  • Get informed about HIPAA – it lets the dentist know you understand this important part of patient confidentiality.

Research is not required for admission into dental school, though you are encouraged to pursue opportunities you are interested in. If you are not interested in research, you are better off engaging in other activities that you are more passionate about. Remember that admissions committees appreciate you following your interests, rather than simply checking off a box of activities you feel are necessary for admission.

If you are interested in research, you should not feel limited to wet-lab or life-science research. Indeed, feel free to explore research projects outside of medicine, healthcare, or translational science if you are interested in other areas. It is more about being passionate and productive in the project, than the specific content.

Conducting research is also another opportunity to secure a strong letter of evaluation from a faculty member.

Just like shadowing and research, volunteering is not just a box to check. It is an opportunity to display your desire to serve others, so there is no minimum number of hours. Instead, approach volunteering from the view that this is just something that you do regardless of whether you are required.

You do not need to volunteer in ten different settings and no amount of volunteer work will ever substitute for a poor GPA or DAT score. Think about how you would like to serve others. What kind of environment or what population of people do you think needs your attention and help? Find an organization that works in that area and try to dedicate a few hours every week. If you grow tired of a particular setting, find a different one and commit your time and effort in the same way. Dental schools can sense when an applicant is participating in activities only to pad their resume versus someone who is investing in opportunities in which they are most interested.

Short answer is yes.

That said, which organization(s) to join is completely up to you. One misconception that students make is that you must join all pre-dental or pre-health clubs. Instead, consider what hobbies and interests you have and seek out like-minded people. General advice for any UH student is to join at least one academic club and one social club. Academic clubs include professional clubs like pre-med clubs but also clubs for a major of an academic discipline. Social clubs include Greek life, hobbyist clubs, and other clubs that allow you to explore a variety of extra-curricular activities.

Generally speaking, the impact of joining an student organization (besides gaining friends and learning about a particular area) on your application will depend on your level of involvement. Dental school admissions committees strongly value leadership in applicants. Therefore, it is not enough to simply attend organizational meetings, but you should look for ways to further the mission or cause of the organization. This could mean becoming an officer, but may also mean engaging in activities organized by the club, such as fundraisers, food-drives, volunteer activities, etc. If you are more involved, you will have more to included on your application and discuss during an interview.

Admissions Data for EY2019*

  • UH Applicants: 64
  • UH Accepted: 23
  • UH Acceptance Rate: 35% / Texas Average Acceptance Rate: 30%
University of Houston (EY2019)
Overall GPA Science GPA DAT-Academic Average DAT-Perceptual Ability
Applied 3.48 3.36 20 20
Accepted 3.80 3.73 21 20
TMDSAS Applicants (EY2019)
Overall GPA Science GPA DAT-Academic Average DAT-Percepual Ability
Applied 3.49 3.36 19 19
Accepted 3.74 3.67 21 20

*Note: Data utilizes only TMDSAS application. Includes only applicants who designated the University of Houston as their primary institution and authorized release of their application data to the Pre-Health Advising Center.