Pre Dentistry Advising

Pre-Health Professions Advising

Pre Dentistry
Dentistry is a profession that combines science and technology with helping people to enhance and maintain their oral health.  As health care practitioners, dentists diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases, injuries and malformations of the teeth and mouth.  They improve a patient’s appearance, educate patients on how to take better care of their teeth, teach future dentists and perform research to developing new treatment methods in improving oral health.  For more information on this profession, visit Approximately 90% of dentists in the U.S. are general practitioners.  The remaining 10% are specialists that require additional education after the general dentistry degree is obtained.  They are:
  • Dental Public Health
  • Endodontic
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics

For more information on these specialties visit: If you are considering dental school, Loras will provide you with a solid foundation to help you reach your goal.  Of course you must do your part by meeting the rigorous admission standards of the dental schools to which you apply.  There are 57 dental schools in the United States.  The schools are competitive so the right path is important to becoming a dentist. The career outlook for new dentists is good.  They are needed in private practice, as teachers, researchers, and in public health.  A large number of dentists are projected to retire in the next twenty years.  Increasing numbers of older adults are keeping their teeth longer, there is a greater awareness of oral health care, a greater demand for cosmetic services, and technological advances in the industry that make this profession a great one to pursue.

Academic Requirements
Courses required for admission to dental schools are quite similar, although each dental school sets its own requirements.  It is very important that students meet with the Health Science Coordinator, Patti Burgmeier, or Dr. Tom Davis, every semester to stay on track.  You can also visit individual schools requirements by visiting  Dental schools require applicants to have completed the pre-dental curriculum prior to application. 

University of Iowa Dental School

  • English:  (4 semester hours) composition, rhetoric, speech courses required for bachelor's degree
  • Physics:   one year (8 semester hours), one-fourth in laboratory work
  • Chemistry:   two years (16 semester hours), including one year of organic chemistry, one-fourth of which must be in laboratory work. Upper level course in biochemistry would be beneficial.
  • Biology:   one year (8 semester hours), including some laboratory work. May be satisfied by a one-year course in general biology or zoology. Upper-level courses in gross anatomy, cell biology, or physiology would be beneficial.
  • Electives:   a well-rounded background in the social sciences; philosophy; psychology; history; foreign languages; business and accounting; and mathematics.

College courses in biology, chemistry, and physics are required for admission to the College of Dentistry, but the rest of your course work you may select yourself.

Source:  University of Iowa College of Dentistry Website.  2009

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry

  •  Required Courses
    • Chemistry 14 semester hours (21 quarter hours), with at least 4 semester hours in Organic Chemistry (6 quarter hours)
    • Biological Science 6 semester hours (9 quarter hours)
    • Physics 6 semester hours (9 quarter hours)
    • English 6 semester hours (9 quarter hours)
    • Elective Courses 58 semester hours (87 quarter hours)
    • All science courses must include labs.
    • ALL required prerequisite courses taken must be a grade of “C” or better
      Highest consideration will be given to applicants who take at least three of the following upper level science courses or their equivalents and show evidence of high academic performance under heavy course loads.
    • Human Anatomy
    • Human Physiology
    • Histology
    • Microbiology
    • Biochemistry
    • Cell Biology

Source:  University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry Website.  2008

Marquette University
The minimum entrance requirement is 90 semester credits of liberal arts study including:


16 semester hours (24 quarter hours)

Eight (8) semester hours (at least two courses) in general inorganic chemistry including laboratory work are required. A course in quantitative and qualitative analysis may be accepted in lieu of one course in general inorganic chemistry. Eight hours (8) of organic chemistry (at least two courses) including laboratory work are required.



8 Semester Hours (12 Quarter Hours)

Zoology and a course in comparative vertebrate anatomy are preferred but not mandatory. Only four semester hours of botany or that portion of a general biology course pertaining to botany will apply toward the biology requirement. Laboratory work must be included.



8 Semester Hours (12 Quarter Hours)

College physics courses including laboratory work are required.



6 Semester Hours (9 Quarter Hours)

Six semester hours of English. Composition, literature and/or comparative literature will fulfill the requirement.



52 Semester Hours

Suggested pre-doctoral science electives include anatomy, cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, microbiology and physiology. Math courses are suggested in preparation for physics and advanced chemistry. Students are advised to gain, through their college studies, an understanding and an appreciation of various cultural backgrounds in preparation for their futures as professionals and community leaders. With these ideas in mind, it is recommended that courses in English composition and literature, speech, history, philosophy, sociology, political science, economics, psychology, foreign language and the like be included in the schedule of pre-dental studies.

Source:  Marquette University Website.  2009

Dental schools generally require at least 90 semester credits (three years) of college coursework before admission to the professional program.  However, students are encouraged to earn their baccalaureate degrees before entering dental school. University of Illinois at Chicago now requires a four year degree for admission into their dental school.

For a listing of other dental schools requirements contact Health Science Coordinator, Patti Burgmeier.

Selection of a Major

Most students accepted by a dental school have completed an undergraduate degree.  While no specific major is required for admission into a dental school, there are some things to consider when selecting a major.  

Select a major based on your interests and aptitudes, so that you will enjoy your courses and do well in them.  Should you change your mind about dentistry or be unable to gain admission to dental school, a major should also provide an acceptable alternative career choice.

Select a major that will prove your ability to handle the rigor of dental school.  In other words, challenge yourself with course selections/majors as they will be evaluated by admissions committees.   You should be able to prove that you can handle heavy science loads as you will have to do in dental school.

Consult with Health Science Coordinator, Patti Burgmeier, or Dr. Tom Davis should you need any guidance.

Are You a Good Candidate?

There is a misperception that admissions committees seek some ideal combination of characteristics in the applicants they select for admission.  Dental schools look favorably on diversity of an entering class and seek out individuals who display the following:

Intellectual ability and academic success. Admission committees examine academic scores including cumulative GPA, science GPA (math & science courses) and DAT (Dental Admission Test) scores, including a close examination of the PAT (perceptual ability test) score within the DAT.

Personal Characteristics such as leadership ability, motivation, maturity, and service commitment to name a few.  

Understanding and passion for the profession. Admission committees will seek out how the student has demonstrated an interest in the dental profession and developed knowledge of the profession.  Experience in a health care setting, awareness of current events related to the dental profession, and interaction with health care professionals provides evidence of understanding and passion.

Service commitment is extremely important in dentistry and can be obtained many different ways on the college campus.  The experiences can give the students a background filled with diversity.

Manual dexterity skills.  The ability to visually perceive depth, color and shape and manual dexterity are essential to practice dentistry.  Good visual memory and scientific ability are important as well.

Good business sense, personal finance, self-discipline, and communication skills are helpful for success in private practice.

It is recommended that students take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) at least one year prior to seeking admission to dental school.  This computerized test measures general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information and perceptual ability.  Completion of at least one year of college-level courses in biology, general and organic chemistry is recommended for participation in the examination program.  The DAT is divided into the following sections:  Natural Science, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Qualitative Reasoning, all scored on a 1-30 scale.  Perceptual Ability scores have been linked to drop out rates in dental school; therefore schools are taking a closer look at that score. 

Median Scores on the DAT at University of Iowa Dental School, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Dentistry, and Marquette University for students entering fall of 2009 were 19 in Academic Average and Perceptual Ability and 20 in Total Science.  The median Science GPA’s at those schools respectively were 3.67, 3.53, and 3.54, while the median Total GPA’s at those schools respectively were 3.69, 3.60, and 3.61.

For more information on the DAT see the list of resources below.

Beyond the Classroom
Many professional schools strongly suggest students to have observed, worked or volunteered at a family dentist’s office, orthodontist’s office or pediatric dentist’s office before making application to their program.  Required hours can range from 30-100 observation hours.  For a listing of area professionals willing to work with pre-dental students, please contact Health Science Coordinator, Patti Burgmeier, or Dr. Tom Davis, in the St. Joseph Science Hall.

Application Process
Most dental schools participate in the American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS).  Students can begin application on June 1st after their junior year.  For a fee, students can subscribe to this service and complete a single application to apply to multiple dental schools.  Admission committees for dental programs review credentials such as academic qualifications, the results from the DAT, grade point average, personal statement, letters of recommendation , and dental office shadowing experiences.  Keep in mind that these are general admission criteria and other admission requirements can vary from school to school.  Meet with Health Science Coordinator, Patti Burgmeier, or Dr. Tom Davis on a regular basis to stay on track with ALL requirements.

Pre-Dentistry Links

Additional Sources for this website include:

Health Professions Admissions Guide; Strategy for SuccessNational Association of Advisors for the Health Professions,  7th edition.  2007.

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