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Pre-Dentistry Preparation at UHMānoa

(Text compiled from the American Dental Education Association website, the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, the Dental Admission Test Candidate’s Guide, NAAHP’s Medical Professions Admissions Guide,and the UHM 2013-2014 Catalog.)

Dentistry programs offered in Hawai'i: None

*Note: The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry has 3 seats each year for Hawaii students. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Dr. Russell Tabata (an alumni & their spokesperson) or visit their website:*

D.M.D. and D.D.S. Programs
Prerequisites for Admission
What makes a strong candidate?
The Application Process
Financial Aid
Additional Information
Downloadable Brochure

Dentists are health care professionals whose primary responsibility is maintaining the health of patients’ oral cavity and its adjacent structures.

Dentists provide preventive care and diagnose and treat problems affecting both hard and soft tissues, including teeth, jaw, lips, gingival tissue, and tongue. They also perform medical procedures such as surgery, laser surgery, and tissue grafts. Dentists improve their patients’ appearances through cosmetic dental procedures, which require finely attuned aesthetic sensibilities. Dentists provide a wide variety of services in many community arenas and must be comfortable interacting with people of all ages, cultures, and personalities.

Most dentists become general practitioners and work in private practice, renting or owning an office and employing an average of four employees. Some, however, work in group practices or hospitals. Some dentists also teach, conduct research, or work in public health.

In addition to General Dentistry, there are currently nine clinical fields in dentistry:

  1. Dental Public Health: the control and prevention of dental disease through organized community efforts
  2. Endodontics:  the study and treatment of tissues affecting the vitality of the teeth (dental pulp).
  3. Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology:  the study, diagnosis, and sometimes treatment of diseases in the oral and maxillofacial region.
  4. Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: diagnostic imaging
  5. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery:  extractions, implants, and facial surgery
  6. Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics: the straightening of teeth due to developmental abnormalities that affect function and appearance
  7. Pediatric Dentistry: dentistry for children and adolescents
  8. Periodontics: the study and treatment of diseases of the periodontium, and dental implants
  9. Prosthodontics:  the replacement of missing teeth with fixed or removable substitutes

Related Professions: dental assistant, dental hygienist, and dental laboratory technician.

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Dentistry Programs

Becoming a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) requires 6 to 10 years of education:

  • Bachelors Degree (~4 years);
  • Dental School (4 years);
  • Specialty (~2+ years).

Many dental schools offer combined degree programs, either both the DMD and the DDS, or one of those plus another professional degree, such as the MPH (public health), MBA (business administration), MS, or PhD.

The first two years of dental school concentrate on studying the biological sciences, although some programs allow students to interact with patients almost from the start.  Years three and four usually focus on clinical training in a variety of settings and often include instruction in business management. Upon graduation, dentists can choose to enter programs in one of the specializations.

Earning a DMD or DDS qualifies graduates to take state licensing exams. All dentists must be licensed to practice.

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Prerequisites for Admission

Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the dental schools you are interested in attending.

The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to dental schools:

BIOL 171/171L and 172/172L
Introductory Biology I and II
CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L
General Chemistry I and II
CHEM 272/272L and 273/273L
Organic Chemistry I and II
PHYS 151/151L and 152/152L
(or PHYS 170/170L and 272/272L)

College Physics I and II
(or General Physics I and II)

1-4 courses, including Composition

Additional requirements may include courses such as biochemistry, calculus, psychology, and upper division biology, among others.

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What makes a strong candidate?

Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the academic curriculum and are likely to become good dentists.

Are you capable of completing the academic curriculum?
            Admissions committees are looking for students who have:

  • completed the prerequisites
  • a high overall GPA
  • a high science/math GPA
  • performed well on the DAT
  • balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic

Are you likely to become a good dentist? Will you contribute to the field of dentistry?
            Admissions committees look for students who have:

  • excellent oral and written communication skills
  • demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
  • high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
  • demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
  • experience in the field and with what dentistry entails
  • good manual dexterity and a strong sense of aesthetics
  • a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
  • a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
  • strong letters of recommendation

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Researching Schools

There are now about 70 public and private dental schools in the U.S. and Canada, each one unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths. Applicants can research schools using the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools.

Although there are resources that “rank” schools, the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants. More important is whether there is a good match between applicant and school.

To find schools that are good a fit for you (PAC peer advisors can help with this process):

  1. Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  2. Start by considering all schools, which usually includes all 70+ schools;
  3. Create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  4. Once you have your DAT scores, create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools on your Long List into “Reach,” “Match,” and “Safety”, ranking the schools by preference, and finally choosing how many schools to apply to. Be sure to apply to schools in all 3 categories (“Reach,” “Match,” and “Safety.”).

If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to Admissions Directors, and chat with students.



All dental schools require that applicants take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT).

Preparation:  Your most important preparation for the DAT is your undergraduate courses, many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills. Remember that the verbal sections are not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do at the graduate level, but also the most difficult scores to improve.

DAT Summary:   The DAT assesses your knowledge and skills in Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning.  The test requires ~4 hours to complete, and entails ~280 multiple choice questions.  The DAT is administered in a computer-based format and is offered almost any day of the year.

DAT Scoring:  Each of the four sections receives its own score on a range of 1-30, with 30 being highest. The four scores are averaged to create a composite score using the same range. Scores of 18 are average; scores of 18 or higher are considered competitive for most dental schools.

Official Test Preparation Material:     DAT tutorial on DAT website
                                                             Preparation material and sample tests
on DAT website
                                                             Prometric's Test Drive on

PAC offers a more detailed summary of the DAT here: DAT Exam Overview Sheet


    The Application Process

There are three general steps in applying to dental schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview.

1.  Primary applications must be filed with the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), which is a centralized application system.  Once the application is complete, AADSAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated.

2.  Secondary applications or supplementary forms are specific to individual dental schools; schools send these to applicants after they have received the AADSAS application. Both frequently request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation. Some schools may even screen applicants before the applications or forms are sent out. However, secondary applications and supplementary forms differ in that the latter is not a formal application.

3.  Interviews: After reviewing applicants’ complete application packet (including both primary and secondary applications), dental schools invite promising applicants to interview. Applicants are responsible for all costs of interviewing, including airfare, lodging, professional attire, and meals.

Traffic Rules: Although the application process varies from school to school, ADEA has established “traffic rules” to ensure fairness for all concerned. The rules, available online, stipulate both schools’ and applicants’ rights and responsibilities in the application process.  Before applying, all applicants should be familiar with the traffic rules found on the ADEA website:

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Financial Aid

WICHE:  Hawai’i residents are eligible to participate in the Professional School Exchange Program (PSEP), a service of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). In a competitive process, PSEP selects applicants to receive financial support from state funds; the students who are selected pay in-state tuition if they attend a participating program on the west coast. WICHE applications become available in July and have a mid-October deadline.

Note: To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply one full year in advance of matriculation (generally in the summer after junior year).

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  • The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
  • Most application questions can be answered by reading the Official Guide to Dental Schools by ADEA.
  • Contact individual schools’ Admissions Offices to find out how they handle:
      • Advanced Placement (AP) credits
      • International Baccalaureate (IB) credits
      • College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
      • military credits
      • courses taken at a community college
      • non-U.S. coursework
      • courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
      • residency issues
      • time limits on prerequisite science courses


Additional Information

UHMānoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to dental schools.

UHM's Pre-Dental Association
American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
American Dental Association (ADA)
Dental Admissions Test (DAT)
Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS)
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)
American Student Dental Association (ASDA)
Official Guide to Dental Schools by ADEA available in PAC
ADEA GOdental
Preparing for Graduate School by the Honors Program

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