Dentists diagnose and treat problems with teeth and tissues in the mouth, along with giving advice and administering care to help prevent future problems. They provide instruction on diet, brushing, flossing, the use of fluorides, and other aspects of dental care. They remove tooth decay, fill cavities, examine x-rays, place protective plastic sealants on children's teeth, straighten teeth, and repair fractured teeth. They also perform corrective surgery on gums and supporting bones to treat gum diseases. Dentists extract teeth and make models and measurements for dentures to replace missing teeth. They administer anesthetics and write prescriptions for antibiotics and other medications. (From the online Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011)
A degree in Dentistry is a four-year professional degree. Students attend dental school after they have completed an undergraduate degree or a minimum of 90 semester hours toward a degree. Students who participate in the Deferred Admit Program (See "Early Admission") must complete an undergraduate degree or 120 semester hours before matriculation to the College of Dentistry. Occasionally, those who enter after three years complete an undergraduate degree by applying their first year of dental school work as 30 s.h. of elective credit toward an undergraduate degree.
An overall GPA of 3.5 or above (on a 4.0 scale) is the preferred GPA for consideration for admission at most Colleges of Dentistry. The average GPA for the fall 2011 class at UIC College of Dentistry was 3.66. The science GPA average was 3.60; this GPA includes grades in biology, chemistry, physics, math, statistics and computer science courses.
Visit the College of Dentistry: Any student who wants to assess dentistry as a potential career is encouraged to visit the UIC clinics. When you go, make sure to make arrangements in advance and go dressed professionally.
Shadowing: While there is no formula for hours spent volunteering, working, or shadowing in a dentistry clinic, any exploration of the field helps students make more informed decisions regarding their suitability for a career in dentistry.
The Application Process
All U.S. dental schools require applicants to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). Most schools (including the University of Iowa) use the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) for initiating an application. ADEA sponsors the online Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS): www.adea.org. Students should check the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools for deadlines at other schools and should apply well before listed deadlines.
Diversity in Dentistry
ADEA has stated that the number of graduates of dental and allied dental programs should reflect their representation in the population and the communities in which they will serve, and that recruitment, retention and graduation of practitioners from disadvantaged groups are goals that are important for the public's health (from the ADEA website).
Many Colleges of Dentistry have a summer enrichment program that, prior to matriculation, helps admitted students acclimate to the College. Students are encouraged to contact their pre-dentistry advisors, and the individual dental schools, for more information.
Entrance Examination Requirement (DAT)
It is preferred that the DAT is taken no later than August of the calendar year preceding the year in which the applicant wishes to enroll in the Dental College. Students register online at www.ada.org. The test consists of four sections: a Survey of Natural Sciences (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry), Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Reasoning, and Perceptual Ability. Two summary scores are reported, one on academic subjects and one for perceptual ability, as well as scores on individual sections. The scoring range is from 1 to 30. The average score for students accepted into the UI program is 19 for each subtest. The current national average is between 17 and 18.
Letters of Evaluation/Recommendation
Letters of evaluation will be required of applicants. Letters from a faculty member, dentist or physician, academic advisor, or employer would be appropriate. Information about the non-academic character of a student would be most useful as academic information is already in the application. Students should have their evaluation letters submitted directly through AADSAS.
Most schools screen applicants with some form of personal interview. The UIC College of Dentistry interview consists of structured and unstructured components and is conducted by two individuals, one of whom is an Admissions Committee member.
In general, applicants needed a 3.50 GPA or greater to be considered for interviews in 2011; however, there were some exceptions. Admission is based on GPA, DAT scores, research interest or experience, community involvement, leadership qualities, the interview, the essay, and letters of recommendation. The Admissions Committee consists of ten faculty and two dental students (all voting members), as well as three ex-officio members.
Criminal Background Checks
Prerequisite for enrollment in the Colleges of Dentistry is consent for an external background check. This check includes, but is not limited to, past criminal offenses and registry information. If there is evidence of arrest for a crime(s), conviction for a crime(s), presence on an abuse registry, or other information which reasonably suggests that patient safety might be compromised, the student will be asked to provide additional information.
Dental schools vary as to whether they accept non-U.S. citizens. Some schools that do accept non-citizens require a substantial financial commitment up front. Since not all schools accept non-citizens and since the financial commitment of those that do may be substantial, students should thoroughly research and carefully consider such a decision and discuss it with their pre-dental advisors early in their undergraduate years.