How Long Is Dental School: Requirements & Prerequisites

Oct 22, 2019

Dental school requirements typically include coursework and hands-on clinical work that can be completed in 4 years. Learn more about how to become a dentist and what it takes to get into dental school.

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How Long is Dental School?

Going to dental school to earn a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry/Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree takes 4 years. Usually, applicants to these programs need at least a 4-year bachelor's degree, and many graduates of dental school go on to complete dental residency programs, which may take 1 to 4 years of additional study beyond dental school. Altogether, dentist training can take between 8 and 12 years. Here we examine some of the requirements and prerequisites for becoming a dentist.

Dental School Requirements

Dental schools are available from New Jersey to California. Each school offers either a DDS or DMD degree, which are equivalent degrees, upon successful completion of the program.

Dental schools typically have students complete coursework during the first year of the 4-year program. In the 2nd year, students begin participating in more simulations and pre-clinical experiences in dentistry. The final 2 years are even more hands-on; they typically include rotations, clinical hours, and practicum experience under the supervision of a licensed dentist. Coursework for these degree programs may cover topics in areas like:

  • Dental anatomy
  • Preventative dentistry
  • Oral health
  • Oral pathology
  • Operative dentistry
  • Periodontology
  • Treatment planning
  • Clinical management of dental pain
  • Pharmacology
  • Ethics

Dental School Prerequisites

To get into dental school, aspiring dentists typically begin their education with a bachelor's degree. Although there is not a specific major in dentistry, there are several universities that offer pre-dentistry studies and/or house dental schools.

These pre-dental programs help prepare students for dental school by requiring the completion of common prerequisite courses for dental school admission. Students should check the prerequisites for the particular dental school they are interested in, but in general, dental schools require coursework in areas such as:

  • English
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Physics

It is also common for dental schools to require applicants to complete the Dental Admission Test (DAT). Depending on the school, other factors considered in the admissions process may include recommendation letters, a minimum GPA, and/or an interview.

How to Become a Dentist

Degree Required Doctoral or professional degree
Other Requirements Residency training, licensure

After completing a 4-year bachelor's degree and a dental school program, some dentists may decide to specialize in a particular field of dentistry. Typically, specialization requires 2 to 4 years of additional training in a residency program to earn a certificate or master's degree, although there are 1-year residency programs for dentists interested in general practice.

Students interested in oral and maxillofacial surgery must complete a 4- to 6-year program, which might result in a Medical Doctor (M.D.) degree. Other dentists interested in conducting research and/or teaching dentistry usually need to pursue a postdoctoral program in the field.

To practice dentistry, graduates of dental school and/or residency programs must then obtain a license from the state in which they work. Although state requirements vary, many states require dentists to pass the National Board Dental Examinations and a clinical examination for the state or region after earning a DDS or DMD.

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