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Dentists prevent, diagnose and treat problems affecting the teeth, gums, tongue, lips and jaws. Dentistry requires diagnostic ability and manual dexterity skills as well as some artistic ability. Since most dentists work in private practice, good business sense and communication skills are also essential.


  • 2 semesters General Biology with labs
  • 2 semesters Anatomy and Physiology with labs
  • 1 semester Microbiology
  • Additional Biology may be required
  • 2 semesters General Chemistry with labs
  • 2 semesters Organic Chemistry with labs
  • 1 semester Biochemistry
  • 2 semesters General Physics with labs
  • 1 semester General Psychology (additional social science/humanities courses may be required)
  • 1 semester English Composition: (some schools may require 2 semesters of English)
  • Other recommended courses: jewelry making, sculpture, or ceramics to demonstrate manual dexterity

Generally, a grade below a C is not acceptable for prerequisite courses.

Career Guide with Pre-Dent Course Options at Purdue

Becoming a Dentist

Dental programs offer either the DMD (Doctor of Medical Dentistry) or DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery). Although named differently, they are equivalent degrees. The DMD and DDS have the same requirements, and both must complete the same licensure exams.

Specialties are available within dentistry with further training, but a dental degree is a generalist degree. For this reason, students are expected to spend time shadowing a general dentist before applying to dental school. Schools will also look for volunteer work and research experience.

Aptitude Test and Application

Dental schools require the Dental Admission Test, which is administered through the American Dental Association. The exam tests knowledge of the natural sciences, perceptual ability, reading comprehension and quantitative reasoning. Most students take the DAT in the spring of their junior year. Application to dental school starts in June prior to your final year of undergrad. Students apply through a centralized application service called AADSAS (American Association of Dental Schools Application Service). 

Links and Additional Information

Programs in Region