Dentistry as a career
Dentists are involved in every aspect of diagnosis, prevention and treatment of problems of the teeth, gums and jaw:
- Repair decay and full teeth
- Protectively seal children's teeth
- Whiten teeth
- Create dentures for missing teeth
- Advise on diet, tooth and gum care
Dentists can be generalists or specialize in many areas, including orthodontics, oral surgery, pediatric dentistry or periodontics, just to name a few. Dentists may become involved in forensic dentistry and/or become expert witnesses within the legal system.
Is dentistry the career for me?
Only you can decide this, but here are a few tips to think about. Read over this same section in the pre-med materials, and check the 'good candidate list.'
Answer the following questions:
- Can you make a commitment to academic excellence? Classes must be your first priority (work first, play later).
- Are you intellectually talented? Can you learn quickly and get excellent grades?
- Do you have a strong ability to see/work in three dimensions? High manual dexterity/perception will be required (one entire section on the DAT).
- Do you have the emotional strength to work with people in pain? This is more difficult than it sounds. Seek out experiences that allow you to determine this for yourself.
- Will you have a strong emotional support system during training and in your practice? The dental profession is often disliked by patients; you must be able to cope with that.
- Talk to dentists and other professionals. They can share their stories, which may help you see your choices more clearly.
Preparation for Dental School
Be sure to check with individual programs and read over the pre-med site for general resources. The general pre-med preparation sequence at Alma will give you a strong start, with the following modifications:
- Biochemistry is required
- Make sure to take Chemistry in year 1 or 2 (required for BCM, and BIO 207 which itself is required for human anatomy)
- Consider sculpture/ceramics or other 3D art for your AH-1 distributive
- Consider developmental biology, physiology, microbiology, histology and immunology (and IPH 344 Human Anatomy)
- Biology is the most likely pre-dental major, but it is possible to select other majors, as long as you complete the requirements.
Grades and the Dental Aptitude Test (DAT)
Dental programs report an average GPA of 3.5 (with 3.4 in the sciences) for their matriculants. Strong preparation and a love of learning is a requirement for admission and for success during and after dental school.
You will also need to take the DAT (probably during your junior year). This is a rigorous on-line test covering your pre-dental curriculum. Bookmark the DAT site and revisit it often. Purchase a DAT prep book ASAP and use it throughout your preparation.
Consider a hobby/activity that helps develop your 3D perception. Purchase manipulation puzzles or use on-line resources that promote these skills (first person shooters don’t count!). The perception section on the DAT is hard, and you will need to be well prepared for it.
Download and follow the pre-med preparation timetable. Modify as needed (DAT for MCAT, shadow with a dentist vs. a doctor). Sign up on the pre-dental board (outside the Dow Science Office) and contact other pre-dental students.
Make sure you arrange to shadow/volunteer with dentists in Alma or your hometown. Drs. Nester, Frutiger, Wassenaar and Moeggenberg are all very glad to help you out. Dr. Brent Moeggenberg is an Alma College grad who joined the Frutiger-Wassenaar practice in 2005. Be certain to track your hours (see form on pre-med resources site).
Application to Dental School (AADSAS service)
Application to dental school requires completion of a common application form. Download a sample from the AADSAS site as soon as you can, and return to the site as needed, so you understand what is required.
You will need to apply well before your senior year starts, but it is better that your application be polished, rather than the first in the slot. Arrange for your letters of recommendation right after your application is submitted. See the information on recommendation letters on the pre-med site.
- American Dental Education Association (ADEA): Preparation information for the career of dentistry
- Official guide to dental schools available for purchase (check with Dr. Grimnes first)
- American Dental Association
- Dental Aptitude Tests DAT
- Dental Application Service (AADSAS)
- University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry
- University of Michigan School of Dentistry