Cover Photo Image

General Overview

Dentists (DDS and DMD) are healthcare professionals who examine the head, neck, and oral cavity to identify and diagnose conditions that influence oral and systemic health. Dentists diagnose and treat diseases, restore or replace damaged teeth, perform corrective surgery, reduce pain and discomfort, and provide instruction on oral health. Most dentists (~90%) deliver oral health care through private practice; approximately 10% of dentists deliver care in other clinical settings, teach in dental education, conduct research, and/or work in public policy. Some dentists (~20%) specialize in fields like endodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics or dental public health.

Choosing a Major

Pre-dental students typically obtain a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree while completing the requirements for admission to dental school. Dental schools do not require or prefer a particular undergraduate major, but rather welcome students whose intellectual curiosity leads them to a wide variety of disciplines. Dental schools recognize the importance of a strong foundation in the natural sciences - biology, chemistry, physics - as well as behavioral sciences and statistics. Thus, applicants must complete course requirements and demonstrate proficiency in the sciences as evidenced by the science GPA, overall GPA, and scores on the DAT.

Coursework

Pre-Professional Health Advising has developed requirements for the Pre-Dentistry Program based on the the pre-requisite courses of 16 dental schools in the District of Columbia and 10 states (CT, GA, MA, MD, NC, NY, OH, PA, SC, and VA). The review of pre-requisite courses to develop the requirements for the Pre-Dentistry Program below was completed in spring semester 2017. You should look at individual dental schools' list of pre-requisites to assure completion of all pre-requisite coursework. Because these courses are pre-requisites to dental programs, dental school admissions committees will use your academic success in these courses as a metric of your ability to achieve success in dental school.

If you have credit for any of the following courses by earning Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge International Exam (CIE), community college credit, or departmental test credit, please read the Non-JMU Coursework for Pre-Requisite Coursework below.

Biology Coursework

94% of dental schools reviewed listed 8 credits of Biology with lab as a pre-requisite. Therefore, students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Biology with labs.

  • BIO 140: Foundations of Biology I (4 credits)
  • BIO 150: Foundations of Biology II (4 credits)

At least 16 credits of intermediate (200-level) and advanced (300- and 400-level) Biology coursework is strongly recommended to be a competitive applicant; therefore, it is required for the Pre-Dentistry Program. Of these 16 credits, at least 4 credits need to be advanced Biology.

Of the schools reviewed, 38% required, strongly recommended, or recommended Anatomy. 31% required, strongly recommended, or recommended Physiology and Microbiology. 25% of schools trongly recommended or recommended Genetics and Histology. 19% of schools strongly recommended or recommended Cell Biology. Therefore, when choosing 16 credit hours of intermediate and advanced Biology coursework:

Pre-Professional Health Advising strongly recommends:

  • BIO 245: Microbiology (4 credits)
  • BIO 290: Human Anatomy (4 credits)
  • BIO 370: Animal Physiology (4 credits)
  • BIO TBD: Cell Biology

Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends:

  • BIO 240: Genetics (4 credits)
  • BIO 482: Human Histology (4 credits)

You may want to explore the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) Guide's Test Content - Survey of the Natural Sciences to choose additional, advanced Biology coursework.

Chemistry Coursework

Pre-Dentistry students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Chemistry with labs, because 100% of dental schools reviewed listed 8 credits of General Chemistry as a pre-requisite.

  • CHEM 131: General Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 131L: General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit) or CHEM 135L: Special General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit; Chemistry majors only)
  • CHEM 132: General Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHEM 132L: General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit) or CHEM 136L: Special General Chemistry
         Laboratory (1 credit; Chemistry majors only)

Students are also required to complete 8 credit hours of Organic Chemistry with lab. 100% of dental schools reviewed listed Organic Chemistry I as a pre-requisite, and 94% listed Organic Chemistry II as a pre-requisite. Regarding the lab, 14 of 16 dental schools reviewed listed 2 credits of Organic Chemistry lab as a pre-requisite; one school listed it is a recommendation. Please notice, Pre-Dentistry students do not take CHEM 241L (1 credit), because CHEM 242L is a 2-credit laboratory that covers Organic Chemistry I and II laboratory learning outcomes.

  • CHEM 241: Organic Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242: Organic Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242L: Organic Chemistry Laboratory (2 credits) or CHEM 287L and 288L: Integrated Inorganic/Organic
          Laboratories (4 credits; Chemistry majors only)

Finally, students are required to complete 3 credits of Biochemistry. 94% of dental schools reviewed required, strongly recommended, or recommended 3 credits of Biochemistry.

  • CHEM 361: Biochemistry I (3 credits)

Learn more about the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) Guide's Test Content - General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry to understand how Chemistry course content relates to the DAT.

Physics Coursework

Students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Physics with labs. 100% of dental schools reviewed listed Physics I as a pre-requisite; 81% of schools listed Physics I lab as a pre-requisite. 88% of dental schools reviewed listed Physics II as a pre-requisite; 69% of schools listed Physics II lab as a pre-requisite.

  • PHYS 140*: College Physics I (3 credits) or PHYS 240: University Physics I (3 credits)
  • PHYS 140L: General Physics Laboratory I (1 credit)
  • PHYS 150*: College Physics II (3 credits) or PHYS 250: University Physics II (3 credits)
  • PHYS 150L: General Physics Laboratory II (1 credit)

* Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends that you take the PHYS 140-150 sequence rather than the 240-250 sequence, unless your major requires otherwise. The PHYS 140-150 sequence is the non-calculus sequence in general physics. The 240-250 sequence is the calculus sequence that requires MATH 235-236 as co-requisites, respectively. Because it is not the calculus sequence of Physics, PHYS 140-150 is able to cover more breadth within Physics than the 240-250 sequence.

Mathematics Coursework

Pre-Dentistry students are required to complete 6 credits of a 200-400 level Mathematics. 38% of dental schools reviewed listed 6 credits of Math as a pre-requisite or strongly recommended. For these 6 credits of mathematics, it is strongly recommended that you take 3-4 credits of Calculus and 3 credits of Statistics.

There are two considerations when choosing appropriate calculus and statistics courses.

  1. Double-Counting with Other RequirementsRefer to major and minor requirements in the Undergraduate Catalog to determine if there are specific calculus or statistics courses required for your major or minor requirements. Most of these classes will fulfill General Education: Cluster 3: Quantitative Reasoning, but this may also be a consideration.
  2. Your Math Placement Exam (MPE) ScoresUtilize the MPE Matrix to determine the appropriate calculus and statistics courses to take. You can find your MPE for calculus and statistics within the Student Center of MyMadison. You can watch a video to learn how to find your MPE scores.

Calculus: There are four 200-level Calculus options at James Madison University. There are two calculus "pathways"; the 231-232 sequence, 233-234 sequence, and 235 prepare you for more advanced calculus courses. MATH 205 does not prepare you for more advanced calculus courses. Your MPE - Calculus score may require that you take MATH 155 or 156: College Algebra beforehand, or that you take MATH 199: Algebra/Precalculus Gateway in conjunction with one of the following courses to be successful.

  • MATH 205: Introductory Calculus I (3 credits)
  • MATH 231: Calculus with Functions I (3 credits)
  • MATH 233E: A Modeling Approach to Calculus, Part A (3 credits)
  • MATH 235: Calculus I (4 credits)

Statistics: There are two statistics courses that Pre-Dental students are encouraged to take at James Madison University. Your MPE - Statistics score may require that you take MATH 105: Quantitative Literacy and Reasoning beforehand to be successful in these courses.

  • MATH 220: Elementary Statistics (3 credits)
  • MATH 318: Introduction to Probability and Statistics (4 credits)

Behavioral and Social Science Coursework

Pre-Dentistry students must complete 3 credits of Psychology or Sociology coursework. 25% of dental schools reviewed encouraged, recommended, or strongly recommended behavioral and social science coursework. One school specifically listed Sociology, another listed Sociology and Psychology, while one listed Sociology, Psychology, and Cultural Anthropology. Therefore, you should look at individual dental schools' list of pre-requisites to guide selection of behavioral and social science coursework to assure completion of all pre-requisites.

Students are encouraged to utilize opportunities to take Psychology and Sociology coursework that will also count for General Education's Cluster 4: The Global Experience and General Education's Cluster 5: Sociocultural Domain.

  • PSYC 101: General Psychology (3 credits)
  • PSYC 160: Life Span Human Development (3 credits)
  • SOCI 110: Social Issues in a Global Context (3 credits)
  • SOCI 140: Microsociology: Individual in Society (3 credits)

English, Literature, and Writing Coursework

Pre-Dentistry students must complete 6 credits of English, literature, or writing. 88% of dental schools reviewed listed 6 credits as a pre-requisite; one school listed 3 credits as a pre-requisite. Typically, students complete this requirement while completing General Education's Cluster 1: Writing and General Education's Cluster 2: Literature requirements. Courses that can fulfill the 6-credit pre-requisite that many dental schools require can include:

  • WRTC 103: (3 credits)
  • any ENG course (3 credits)
  • HUM 200: (3 credits)

Admissions Criteria and Academic Record

Dental admissions committees assess the biographical information provided by the applicant and the academic record from the undergraduate school(s) attended. Of particular importance are grade point averages (GPA), scores on the Dental Admission Test (DAT), dentistry-related experience and service activities, letters of evaluation, and interviews. Academic performance records encompass cumulative and science GPAs, subjects and credit hours completed, rigor of the baccalaureate program, as well as upward trends in performance (e.g. Was average first-year academic performance followed by improvement during subsequent years? Was the level of performance relatively constant or irregular?). A strong undergraduate academic record is considered evidence of both ability and motivation.

Dental Admissions Test (DAT)

The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is required for admission to all dental schools. The DAT is conducted by the American Dental Association (ADA) and is administered at Prometric Test Centers and locations throughout the US, US Virgin Islands and Canada. The DAT is a four-part multiple choice test that measures reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, perceptual ability, and aptitude in science disciplines (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry). The DAT Guide provides information about application and testing procedures, examination content and scoring.

DAT Preparation Resources

The best study plan is one that is tailored to your personal learning style and schedule. To understand the content of the DAT for which to prepare, review the DAT Guide.

The ADA offers a DAT Practice Test with the intent to help candidates understand the types of questiosn that will be asked on the DAT.

Preparation Timeline

Candidates for the DAT should have completed pre-requisite courses in biology, general chemistry, and organic organic chemistry. If your goal is to obtain an undergraduate degree in four years and matriculate to dental school upon graduation ("direct-entry" applicant), the DAT and the AADSAS application need to be completed during the summer following the third year of your undergraduate degree.

Experience

Students are encouraged to seek volunteer or employment opportunities in dentistry. Examples include shadowing a dentist, completing an internship program, or volunteering in a community health clinic. Pre-health enrichment programs can also help a student decide if a career in dentistry is a good fit! Students are encouraged to join a pre-dental society, and to participate in recruitment fairs and open houses to learn about dentistry and dental schools. Shadowing dentist(s) and keeping a log documenting the hours is recommended, for example the VCU School of Dentistry requires that applicants complete 150 documented hours of shadowing.

Letters of Recommendation or Evaluation

All dental schools require submission of letters of evaluation (LOE) as part of the application. JMU students and alumni are encouraged to utilize the PPH Evaluation Service to assemble an packet of evaluation letters that will fulfill the requirement of all U.S. dental schools. For information please contact pph@jmu.edu.

Back to Top