How do I become a Dentist? (A guide to getting you started)

how do i become a dentist

Do you want to become a dentist but are unsure where to start? Welcome! This post will serve as a guide to introduce you to what it takes to become a dentist. You will learn about the education needed, the requirements for dental school, and the options after dental school. We hope to show you how to get started and help you navigate your way through this seemingly daunting process. Links will be included throughout the text to direct you to helpful resources.

If you are still wondering if becoming a dentist is the right path for you, check out our previous blog post.

Education Requirements to Become a Dentist

how do i become a dentist a guide to getting you started

  • Bachelor’s Degree – The first step to becoming a dentist is enrolling in a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university. Many pre-dental students take a science-related degree. However, this is not completely necessary. Dental schools require science prerequisite courses, and most of these will be taken as part of a science program. Alternatively, they can be taken as options if you are interested in pursuing a different undergraduate degree. Depending on the school you apply to, you may be required to complete a bachelor’s program, while for other schools, you may only be required to complete a certain number of undergraduate credits.
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)/Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) – Dental school is a 4-year program where you will become certified as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), depending on the school. Both degrees are recognized as equivalent.

Applying to Dental School

The next step is to decide where you want to go to dental school. There is a reciprocal agreement between the Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada (CDAC) and the United States, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand if you are Canadian. This means that you can practice as a dentist in Canada if you complete your DDS/DMD degree at an accredited school. If you are American and wish to practice in the United States, you must complete your dentistry degree at an American or Canadian dental school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Some general requirements for the dental school application include the following:

  • Prerequisite courses – The specific prerequisite courses vary depending on the school. Generally, schools require introductory biology, introductory chemistry, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and physiology. Ensure the requirements for the specific schools you are interested in applying to. Most students take a science undergraduate degree to complete these requirements; however, a science degree is not required.
  • GPA – Dentistry is a very competitive program. Each school has its own minimum requirements; however, obtaining the minimum GPA will not guarantee you are a competitive applicant. Generally, a 3.7+ is considered competitive, although this varies for each school. Some schools release admissions statistics that can help you determine if you may be a competitive applicant at the school.
  • DAT (US DAT/CAN DAT) – The Dental Aptitude Test (DAT) is a standardized test that is required for admission to dental school. While the DAT will test your knowledge of general science concepts and reading comprehension–like many standardized tests you may have taken–it also places a strong emphasis on visual acuity and spatial skills (perceptual ability section), and manual dexterity (all schools do not require the manual dexterity portion).
  • Shadowing – A minimum of 100 shadowing hours are required for admission to dental school in the United States. This is not a requirement for Canadian dental schools, however, it is recommended. Shadowing gives you an insight into what a career in dentistry has to offer. It is a way to learn behind the scenes about a dentist’s role, and hear about truths and myths about the career.
  • Extracurriculars – For many dental schools, extracurricular activities are a component of the application process. Extracurriculars show how you balance a busy undergraduate course schedule while taking part in activities in other aspects of your life. The schedule of dental school is extremely demanding, so it is beneficial to develop time management skills. These extracurriculars can be anything you have found interest in, and it is not required that all be specific to dentistry.
  • Personal Statement – Many dental schools require a personal statement to highlight why you wish to become a dentist, and why you believe you are suited for this career. This is your opportunity to reflect on your experience with dentistry or other extracurriculars, demonstrate your WHY for dentistry, and how your strengths make you a suitable candidate.
  • Letters of Recommendation – Most schools require letters of recommendation from a science professor and a dentist in the community.

After Dental School

Once you have completed dental school, you must complete the national board exam in the country you wish to practice dentistry in. For example, if you wish to practice in Canada but attended dental school in Australia (which is an accredited dental school in Canada. See the section “Applying to Dental School” above), you must complete the Canadian board exam. If you completed your dentistry degree in a country that is not accredited by the country you wish to practice in, you must complete an International Dentist Degree at an accredited dental school.

After dental school and completing the board exam, you are able to begin practicing as a general dentist! Alternatively, you may wish to enrich your skills in dentistry with a 1-year General Practice Residency (GPR). A GPR is typically based in a hospital setting, where you will have the opportunity to work on advanced patient cases. 

Other options include graduate programs in various dental specialties, including Dental Public Health, Endodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Oral Medicine and Pathology, Oral & Maxillofacial Radiology, Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics.

How to Get Started

Now that you know how to become a dentist, you may feel overwhelmed with the application process–and that is okay! There are a lot of requirements for dental school, and FutureDMD is here to help you succeed along your journey.

At Future DMD, we allow you to experience dentistry in real life with our Interactive Dental Shadowing Externship. The Shadowing Externship does a deep dive into many different dental specialties so you can learn the basics of dentistry, what it is like to be a dentist, and most importantly–your WHY for dentistry. Shadowing with FutureDMD also counts as verifiable shadowing hours for your dental school application.

e also have programs that tackle the dental school application in Canada and the United States and the personal statement component.

Click “Programs” above to get started or contact us at [email protected] for more information