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Bridging the Gap-A Guide to a Successful Dental Gap Year

Updated: Sep 23, 2023


Smiling dental student

Hello Pre-dental students! My name is Shivani and I am currently a dental student at The Ohio State University School of Dentistry in the class of 2025.


I completed my B.S. in Medical Sciences and B.A. in Philosophy with a minor in Bioethics from the University of Cincinnati in May 2020. After taking a gap year, I started dental school at The Ohio State University in August 2021.


The Dental Gap Year

A gap year is a period of time, typically a year, taken by a student between undergraduate and dental school education to build a better portfolio.


Going through school and hearing someone taking a gap year they were looked down on led me to come up with the presumption that if I take a gap year I am choosing to “waste a year” and putting myself further from my goals.


The last thing I expected to do was take a gap year after undergrad. But soon after a fork for what I wanted to do with my career on a pre-health path, I realized that going to graduate school immediately after college was a path for some, and even though it wasn’t mine, my path wasn’t any less fulfilling.


During this time, I had a chance to narrow my field to dentistry. Focusing on my DAT and

elevating my application I chose to pursue the path of becoming a dental assistant. After

countless hours of reaching out to many dentists, a few had given me the opportunity to

interview and work as a dental assistant for a year.


The things I learned during this time whether that be as minimal as taking an impression or how to make a temporary crown this one year that I feared changed my life and elevated my application significantly.


Are You Thinking About Taking a Dental Gap Year?


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Reasons to take a gap year:

  • To strengthen application before initially applying or reapplying

  • To develop finances

  • To destress from a stressful undergrad or life experiences

Even if your “reason” to take a gap year does not fall on this list there are many reasons to still take a year or a few off.


There is a negative connotation that can come along with taking a gap year and I heard them all during my time taking one, but what is more important is how you use that time off.


When you come to the conclusion that a gap year is the best for your future you want to then focus on how this will be helpful. To better understand what to do you must look at why you wanted to take a gap year in the first place.


Questions to Ask to Determine if You Should Take a Gap Year

If you're thinking about taking a gap year, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • What are my weaknesses?

  • Am I hitting the minimums of the application?

  • What drew me to dentistry that I want to shine brighter in my application?

  • Reach out to current dental students and ask them what they would change if they applied again. Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @riseandfloss

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What to do During a Dental Gap Year?

When considering taking a dental gap year, you may worry "But what will I do for an entire year?". Here is a list of things you may consider doing:

  • Dental assistant

  • X-ray technician

  • Lab technician

  • Research Assistant

  • Shadow

  • Post-Bac program: for students looking to improve their GPA

  • Retake the DAT

Tips to Ensure a Successful Dental Gap Year

If you decide that a dental gap year is right for you, here are my recommendations to make sure it is a successful year for you:


Stay Focused on Dentistry

It is not bad to take time off from dentistry as the rest of your life after your gap year will entail dentistry, but, be able to connect all your experiences back to a “why?”. Be able to answer to an admissions council on "why".

Visit Dental Schools

Visit universities and learn more about each university you are interested in to focus your application to each college specifically. The best thing I did during my gap year was make a list of my top 5 colleges and reach out to students who went to those universities through Instagram or LinkedIn. I was then able to ask questions and make my secondary applications personal to the school from things I heard from the students going there themselves. In most interviews, the things I mentioned from the students were brought back up.

Stay in the Loop

Read and keep yourself in the loop in the field. The best way to do this is to subscribe to the ASDA, ADA, and your state dental association newsletter.

Hand Skills

Develop your hand skills by taking on painting, knitting, or playing an instrument.

Take Some Time to Relax

Relax and spend some time with family and friends because after school starts it’s hard to take a pause.

A Dental Gap Year & Dental School Interviews

Discussing your gap year during your interviews can be intimidating. But you create your story in every interview. How you shape the story of your gap year and tie it all together is what the admissions council is more focused on rather than you taking a gap year.


Conclusion

Ohio State Dental Student

The biggest thing to realize is your journey to dental school does not end with taking a gap year. In most cases, like mine, it can offer a new perspective and be a new beginning making you a much better applicant.


At the end of the day, most people who take a gap year discover themselves making them much better dentists in the long run.


If you have any questions, feel free to reach out at @riseandfloss on Instagram or Riseandfloss@gmail.com


~Shivani Tumukuntala


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