Hello there! My name is Liz and I am a D2 student at Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. I was just in your shoes for the past four years of my undergraduate years. From not figuring out that dentistry was my passion until the end of my sophomore year to taking the Dental Admissions Test twice, I want to share my personal experience, as well as my tips on everything you need to know as a pre-dental student. I hope this is helpful and eases your stress on your journey of becoming a future dentist.
When I was considering my future options, dentistry stood out to me the most because of several reasons. I enjoyed learning. Learning new information does not stop after dental school. As a dentist, you have to take dental continuing education courses to help grow your practice, meet state licensure requirements, and treat patients. I also enjoyed working with my hands. Growing up, I played musical instruments such as the piano and cello. I also took art lessons and even started making macrame decorations. Dentistry is a type of art. You are constantly working with your hands. I also enjoyed working with people. As a dentist, you will be interacting with patients. You will also be working with dental assistants, dental hygienists, lab technicians, and the front desk team. Lastly, I appreciated the lifestyle that dentists had. As a dentist, you will be able to choose what kind of lifestyle you want. Most dentists are often able to choose what hours and days they want to work. Of course, there are also several other reasons to why dentistry is a great career choice, but these are just a few that stood out to me the most and as to why I chose dentistry.
All dental schools have different prerequisite requirements. However, the classes that tend to be common include 8 hours of Biology with lab, 8 hours of General Chemistry with lab, 8 hours of Organic Chemistry with lab, 8 hours of Physics, 8 hours of English, and 4 hours of Calculus. Some recommended courses to take are Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology. Dental schools enjoy seeing additional upper-level biology courses. But this does not mean that you need to major in Biology or Chemistry or anything science-related. In fact, some of my classmates majored in Music or Art in undergrad. As long as you take your prerequisites, you are good! I majored in Biology!
Another aspect of your application is shadowing hours. All dental schools require you to have a certain amount of shadowing hours. The reason for this is so that you truly understand what dentistry is about. Reach out to your general dentist or any local dentist. I would recommend calling the office and explaining that you are a pre-dental student looking to get more exposure to dentistry. You can even send them an email or ask in person. It is not the end of the world if a dental office does not let you shadow at their office. Keep on calling every dental office within your area! I remember I had to call four different ones until the fifth office agreed to let me shadow them! You do not have to only shadow a general dentist, but most dental schools require you to shadow at least one general dentist. I encourage you to shadow as many specialty dentists as well! Before you start shadowing, I would call the office and ask what the dress code is. Most dentists require you to wear business causal or scrubs. Bring a notebook, pen, and a water bottle. Leave your phone in your car and do not touch it while you are shadowing! When you arrive to the dental office, introduce yourself to everyone (front desk administrators, dental assistants, dental hygienists, lab technicians, and dentists). Always ask beforehand if you are able to step in the room with the dentist and the patient during the procedures. Get a feel of the dentist that you are shadowing and see if they are fine with you asking questions during the procedures or would prefer you to ask questions after the procedures. Ask a lot of questions and take notes. It depends on the patient and the dentist so be courteous! For a competitive applicant, I would recommend you to get at least 100-300 hours.
Another very important aspect of your application is the Dental Admissions Test, DAT. It is a multiple-choice standardized exam taken by potential dental school students in the United States and Canada. It consists of Biology, General Chemistry, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning. Most dental schools recommend you to have at least a score of 17 Academic Average (AA) and 17 Total Science (TS). A competitive score is 20 AA and 20 TS or higher. AA is the average of all your sections except for the PAT section. TS is the average of your science sections. I would recommend using DAT Bootcamp for every section and using Ari’s 10 Week Schedule. I used this tactic the second round that I took the DAT.
I truly hope this was helpful. If you have any questions about anything else, feel free to contact me on my Instagram at @smilezwithliz. Thank you! Good luck on your path towards one of the best career choices!