Pre-Dentistry at UH Mānoa

Text compiled from the American Dental Association (ADA) website, American Dental Education Association (ADEA) website, the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools, the ASDA Getting Into Dental School, the Dental Admission Test Candidate’s Guide, NAAHP’s Medical Professions Admissions Guide, and the UHM 2017-2018 Catalog.

Dentistry Programs in Hawai`i: None*

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

Early Acceptance Program for incoming and current UHM students: Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Dental Medicine Early Acceptance Program

Field Description

Dentists are health care professionals whose primary responsibility is maintaining the health of patients’ oral cavities and 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.

Those who choose to continue their dental education after being awarded either the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) can pursue postdoctoral training or postgraduate work designed to enhance the general practitioner’s skill set. More information on dental specialties can be found here.

Sign up here for the ADEA GoDental Newsletter for more dental resources and networking opportunities.

Work Setting

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. More information on different dental careers can be found here.

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

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Dentistry Programs

Years of Schooling Required to Become a Dentist:

8+ years of education

  • Undergraduate Preparation (~4 years);
  • Dental School (4 years);
  • Residency (1-6 years, optional).

Many schools require a bachelor’s degree. Although not all schools list a bachelor’s degree as a requirement for admission, few students are admitted without one. For those schools that do not require a bachelor’s degree, completing a bachelor’s degree is highly recommended. Admission to dental schools is highly competitive, and a bachelor’s degree significantly strengthens a student’s application and provides students with greater options for advancement and career opportunities. For help choosing a major, please see the Choosing a Major for Professional Schools in Health webpage. Click here to listen to dental students speak about their experience as pre-dental students.

Degree Conferred

Upon completion of dental school, students are awarded either the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). Both degrees are equivalent with respect to licensure and professional practice.

Matriculation statistics for the 2015-2016 admission cycle:

Applicants Matriculants Percentage of Applicants Accepted
National Applicants 20,7206,77832.71%
UH Mānoa Applicants 381231.58%

Based on data acquired by the National Association of Academic Advisors for Health Professions (NAAHP).

Gap Year

Students may choose to take a gap year after they graduate with their undergraduate degree. A “gap year” is the period of time between the end of your undergraduate education and the start of your professional school. A gap year might be a year or more depending on each person’s particular circumstances. Students may choose to participate in longer term engagement activities during their gap year. Taking a gap year would change when to apply to professional school, please see a PAC peer advisor to help you plan in when to apply and fit in a gap year experience. When deciding to take a gap year, see our Taking a Gap Year page.

Post-Baccalaureate and Special Masters Programs 

There are a large number of Post-Baccalaureate and Special Masters Programs offered across the nation. Although these programs vary greatly in terms of degree offerings, course curriculum, and program duration, they are all geared to help students in preparation for professional school by taking relevant graduate level courses or to meet the necessary  prerequisites courses for their intended program. For more information, please visit our Post-Baccalaureate and Specials Masters Programs page.

Combined Degree Programs

Many dental schools offer combined degree programs: DMD or DDS/MS or PhD to combine dentistry with research or teaching; DMD or DDS/MBA to combine dentistry with business administration; DMD or DDS/MPH to combine dentistry with public health; and so on. Combined degrees can be offered concurrently, sequentially, or in combination, and often extend the number of years in dental school.

What to Expect in Dental School

The first two years of dental school concentrate on the basic 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. After graduation, dentists who desire advanced training or specialization can choose to complete a residency.

The Licensing Examination(s)

Graduates of accredited dental schools are eligible to sit for Parts I and II of the National Board Dental Examinations, a national exam for dentistry licensure in the United States. Dentistry licensure is regulated at the state level, and students may need to satisfy additional requirements depending on the state in which they intend to practice. Click here to view the licensure requirements for each state.  All dentists must be licensed to practice.

According to the American Dental Association, the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations agreed to create a new examination that would integrate the basic, behavioral, and clinical sciences to assess entry level competency in dentistry. The Integrated National Board Dental Examination (INBDE) would be designed to assist state boards of dentistry in evaluating candidates for dental licensure, and would eventually replace the current National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Parts I and II. The INBDE is currently in development with implementation scheduled to begin in 2020.

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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 schools you are interested in attending. More information regarding specific school requirements can be found here.

More than 25% of the programs in this field require the following UHM courses for admission:

BIOL 171/171L and 172/172LIntroduction to Biology I and II8 cr.
BIOC 241 or higherBiochemistry3 or 4 cr.
CHEM 161/161L and 162/162LGeneral Chemistry I and II*8 cr.
CHEM 272/272L and 273/273LOrganic Chemistry I and II10 cr.
ENG 100 and 200Composition I and II3-12 cr.
MATH 140 or higherPrecalculus or higher*3 cr.
MICR 130 or higherMicrobiology**3 cr.
PHYL 141/141L and 142/142LHuman Anatomy and Physiology I and II***8 cr.
PHYS 151/151L and 152/152L
(or PHYS 170/170/L and 272/272L)
College Physics I and II
(or General Physics I and II)
8 or 9 cr.

Additional requirements may include courses such as calculus and upper-division biology. It is also recommended that non-science majors take additional upper-division or advanced science electives beyond the prerequisites listed above.

ART 113, ART 116, ART 242, and ART 344 are recommended to take in preparation for the perceptual ability section of the DAT.

CHEM 171/171L might not be accepted by dental schools in place of CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L. Students should double check with the schools they are interested in if the schools would accept CHEM 171/171L in place of CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L.

*If you are planning on taking a chemistry or math course for the first time, please make sure to fulfill the placement exam requirement prior to registration. Information on the chemistry placement exam can be found here, and information on the math placement exam can be found here.

**Some schools may require microbiology lab.

***It is strongly recommended to check with each school for specific requirements.  Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry requires PHYL 301/301L and 302/302L.

Please note that if you are retaking courses because dental schools may not accept Advanced Placement (AP), online, or community college credit, your financial aid and/or scholarship status may be affected.

AADSAS 2015-2016 Cycle Average GPA:

CategoryUH Manoa ApplicantsUH Manoa Matriculated
Cumulative Undergraduate BCP3.223.39
Cumulative Undergraduate 3.323.43

BCP stands for Biology, Chemistry and Physics. The GPA is calculated using the courses in those subject areas.

Click here for a four-year sample plan.

Click here for a sample general timeline.

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Experience and Personal Development

Gaining experience in the health professional field in which you are interested is a huge benefit in figuring out if that is the field you want to work in and provides you with a deeper understanding of the field. Some professional schools want to see that you have experience in their field and some schools may require a large amount of particular experience such as hands-on, patient contact experience or experience shadowing a professional in that field. Schools need to be certain that the students they accept are capable of completing the curriculum and are likely to become strong professionals in the field. Schools may see this through the experiences students had.

Admissions committees seek students who have completed the pre-requisites, have high overall and science/math GPAs, performed well on the entrance exam, and have balanced course loads which are challenging yet realistic. These are indications that students are capable of completing the curriculum. Opportunities for exam preparation can be found here.

Experiences can provide proof that students will likely be strong practitioners. Admission committees seek students who demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service which can be shown through community service or volunteer work. Committees also want to see high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic as well as demonstrated maturity through judgment, responsibility, and dependability. Work ethics can be shown through employment opportunities.

Committees seek students who understand the field and what it entails. Different experiences that could provide exposure to the field include enrichment opportunities, internships, shadowing, or volunteering. Through experiences students may show that they have excellent communication skills and a high degree of professionalism in all aspects of life, and potentially gain strong letters of recommendation from supervisors.

Students should aim to have a well-rounded life that balances academics which include a broad liberal arts education with the humanities and social sciences, research, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.) through Clubs and Organizations.

Students may choose to take a gap year after they graduate with their undergraduate degree to gain more experience. When deciding to take a gap year, see our Taking a Gap Year page.

When applying for professional school, you will be asked to list and describe the experiences you have gained in preparation for the profession of your interest. Rather than having to recall from memory all your experiences, having an experience log will allow you to fill out your application with more ease. Students can use their C.V. as a record of these experiences. However, an experience log can include additional beneficial information, such as your employer’s contact information and a reflection portion of what you learned. You may choose to make a personalized experience log or download our sample by clicking here.

A mentor is a guide; someone who has been in your shoes before and can lead you in the right direction. Mentors can share their firsthand experiences to help you accomplish your own goals and can provide support within the field that you’re interested in.
  • UH Connect: If you are a UH student or alumni,  you can find a professional mentor through the UH Connect website. You can use different search and matching tools to find UH alumni who are working in a field that you are interested in within the site. You are then able to connect with them, either through email or by scheduling a meeting with them.

Please click on the following links to explore the different opportunities.

Please visit the ADEA Enrichment Programs website to view more dentistry specific opportunities.

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Researching Schools

There are currently about 66 accredited dental schools in the US, each unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths.  Applicants can research schools using the ADEA U.S. and Canadian Dental Schools.  A physical copy of the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools is also available for use.

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.”), and to select schools that you would really want to attend if/when accepted.

Here is more information on researching and selecting schools to apply for. If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to admissions directors, and chat with students.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry has 3 seats each year for Hawai`i students. These 3 students receive in-state tuition. During the 2016 application cycle, the UMKC School of Dentistry for the first time admitted an additional student beyond the 3 seats. However, that student did not receive the waiver of in-state tuition. The UMKC School of Dentistry will likely continue to give this consideration each year based on the quality of Hawai`i applications. If you are interested or would like more information, please contact Dr. Russell Tabata (an alumnus & spokesperson) or visit their website:

2015-2016 Admissions Cycle Application Statistics

ApplicantsApplicationsAverage # of Applications/ApplicantRange of # of Schools Applied To
National Applicants (2015-2016)12,608122,1629.69NA
UH Mānoa Applicants (2018)4048612.151-43
UH Mānoa Matriculants (2018)1625816.124-43
UH Mānoa Applicants (2019)2833712.041-40
UH Mānoa Matriculants (2019)1522014.671-40

Based on data acquired by the National Association of Academic Advisors for Health Professions (NAAHP).

Schools UH Mānoa Students Matriculated into for the 2015-2016 Admission Cycle

Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health (ASDOH)
Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (BU)
Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine (CWRU)
Creighton University School of Dentistry (CU)
Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of the University of Southern California (USC)
Indiana University School of Dentistry (IUSD)
Loma Linda University School of Dentistry (LLU)
Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Arizona (MWU)

Top 11 Schools UH Mānoa Students Applied to for the 2015-2016 Admission Cycle (Ordered from Most to Least Popular)

1. Creighton University School of Dentistry (CU)
1. Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry (OHSU)
1. University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry (UOP)
4. Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine (WesternU)
5. University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry (UCSF)
6. Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of the University of Southern California (USC)
6. Tufts University School of Dental Medicine (TUSDM)
6. University of Washington School of Dentistry (UWSOD)
9. Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine-Arizona (MWU)
10. The University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine (CU)
10. University of Missouri Kansas City School of Dentistry (UMKC)

The University of Mississippi School of Dentistry and East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine do not accept non-resident applicants.

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Entrance Exam

All dental schools require applicants to take a standardized test call  the Dental Admission 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 your Reading Comprehension score is not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do in dental school, but also the most difficult score to improve. Information on how to create your DAT study schedule can be found here.

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 a score between 1 and 30. The four scores are averaged to create a composite score using the same range. The mean score among examinees is 18; scores of 20 or higher are considered competitive for dental schools.

2015-2016 Admission Cycle DAT Averages for UH Mānoa Students

CategoryUH Mānoa ApplicantsUH Mānoa Matriculants
Perceptual Ability20.2319.61
Quantitative Reasoning18.1218.35
Inorganic Chemistry18.5318.96
Organic Chemistry18.8419.22
Total Science18.2618.65
Reading Comprehension20.0721.04

Official Test Preparation Material  

  • DAT Exam Overview
  • DAT Sample Test Items, by ADA
  • DAT Tutorial, by ADA provides the test format, sample items, and information about navigating through the test.
  • Prometric’s Test Drive provides students an opportunity to take a 30-minute “dry-run” of the test center prior to day of the exam in order for students to familiarize themselves with the feel of a computer-based testing environment.

Commercial Test Preparation Companies

Here is more information on how to prepare for an entrance exam.

To view how schools consider multiple DAT scores, click here.

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Application Process

There are three general steps in applying to dental schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview. A sample application timeline process can be viewed here.

1. Primary applications must be filed with the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS), which is a centralized application system that opens in mid May for applicants to begin filling out the application. AADSAS begins accepting application submissions in early June. It includes a personal statement (4500 characters). Once the application is complete, AADSAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated. The AADSAS application fee is about $245 for the first dental school and $99 for each additional dental school designation. For schools with rolling admission, submit your primary application as early as possible.

Note: A list of specific types of letters of recommendation for each dental school can be found here.

2. Secondary applications or supplementary forms are specific to individual dental schools. Schools may include these applications in the AADSAS application. Other schools may send these applications after they have received the AADSAS application. Both frequently request additional information, essays, letters of recommendation, and/or fees. 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. Most fees are $35 or more and change from year to year, depending on the applicant numbers. For more information about secondary applications, click here.

3. Interviews: After reviewing the primary and secondary applications (or supplementary forms), dental schools invite promising applicants to interview. Applicants are responsible for all costs incurred while interviewing, including airfare, lodging, ground transportation, professional attire, and meals. To learn more about interviews, attend our upcoming interview-related orientations and workshops hereFor sample interview questions click here. Check out this article on Interview Preparation, published in the ADEA Go Dental Newsletter.

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

Re-applicants: Many applicants may not be admitted to the professional school that they desire on their first try. However, if an when you choose to re-apply, there are many things to consider before re-submitting another application the following cycle. For more information on how to improve your application, click here.


  • The more you know about the school, the better your chances of being accepted.
  • Most application questions can be answered by reading the ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools.
  • 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-US coursework
      • courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
      • residency issues
      • time limits on prerequisite science courses

Please note that if you are retaking courses because dental schools may not accept Advanced Placement (AP), online, or community college credit, your financial aid and/or scholarship status may be affected.

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Financial Aid

Financial Planning is a crucial step in applying to dental schools. It is important for students to create a plan and make decisions in their educational expenses. Students are highly encouraged to budget their finances before, during, and after dental school. To learn more about financial planning, click here.  For more information about financial aid opportunities while in dental school, click here.

FAFSA: All students are encouraged to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through this information, students are eligible to apply for grants, work study, and loans to help fund the cost of undergraduate, graduate and professional school education. FAFSA opens on October 1st.

Note: To be considered for this financial aid, you must apply the year prior to matriculation even if you do not know if you were accepted into graduate or professional school yet.

Scholarship Opportunities for Test Prep Materials

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). PSEP enables qualified residents from WICHE participating states affordable access to enroll in selected out of state professional healthcare programs at participating WICHE institutions when such programs are not available at a public institution in their home state. Many Hawai‘i residents must attend professional schools out-of-state to obtain the necessary education and training needed for professional healthcare positions. Therefore, the State of Hawai‘i, through WICHE PSEP, helps subsidize the tuition costs for qualifying Hawai‘i residents to attend a participating WICHE PSEP program. In return, WICHE PSEP students are required to return to work in the State after completing their program of study.

PSEP selected students pay reduced levels of tuition at the WICHE participating institution. The home state pays a negotiated “support fee” designed to cover a portion of the cost of the students’ education; this fee is paid directly to the enrolling program’s institution. No payments are made directly to students. Students enrolled at public institutions generally pay the resident tuition rate, however, students may be required to pay the unmet non-resident tuition differential if the WICHE PSEP support fee does not cover the entire non-resident tuition differential.  Students enrolled at private institutions pay the balance of the full private tuition minus the WICHE PSEP support fee.

Support is available to a limited number of Hawai‘i residents studying dentistry and enrolling at participating WICHE PSEP schools.  For a list of participating schools, click here.

For more information on the Hawai’i WICHE PSEP program, please visit

Note: To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply one full year in advance of matriculation, generally in the summer of your application year.


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Additional Information

UH Mānoa’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 school.

AssociationsAmerican Student Dental Association (ASDA)
American Dental Education Association (ADEA)
American Dental Association (ADA)
Learn More About DentistryADEA GOdental
Entrance ExamsDental Admissions Test (DAT)
Researching SchoolsADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools
Physical copy available at PAC
ApplicationsAssociated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS)
Financial AidWestern Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)
International Volunteer OpportunityHealth – Clubs and Organizations
EngagementHawaii Pre-Health Career Corps
The Pre-Health Career Corps (PHCC) is a free year-round program for Hawaii high school and college students who are interested in health careers. Its purpose is to increase awareness about health careers, provide mentoring, shadowing and research experiences, and provide campus exposure to health careers.


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