So, you want to be a dentist?

Being a dentist provides an opportunity for you to help others become educated about, maintain, and keep good oral hygiene. Patients receive smiles through knowledge, leadership, and communication. To become a dentist you must graduate from dental school, which takes most people 4 years.

Key Points

  • "Pre-Dent" is not a major. Major in any area of personal interest to obtain a degree in.
  • Being "Pre-Dent" is an interest in addition to your major.
  • Dental schools accept a variety of majors. You can major in whatever you are interested in as long as you complete the requirements.

Programs and Requirements

Doctor of Medical Dentistry, D.M.D & Doctor of Dental Surgery, D.D.S.

The DMD/DDS are equivalent 4 year degrees after an undergraduate career. Requirements during school are the same and both professionals must pass the National Board Dental Eaminations (NBDE).

Schools in Alabama

Recommended Course & GPA Requirements

To be a competitive applicant we encourage a 3.5+ cumulative and science GPA.

Pre-requisites of the below courses are enforced.

Schools look for these classes:
Hrs NeededCourse NeededWhat to Take at UAH
8 hrs (w/lab) General Biology BYS 119 & BYS 120
4 hrs Biology subjects See list of competitive courses below to choose from
8 hrs (w/lab) General Chemistry CH 121/125 & CH 123/126
8 hrs (w/lab) Organic Chemistry CH 331/335 & CH 332/336
8 hrs (w/lab) General Physics

PH 101&102 or PH 111/114 & PH 112/115

Physics with calculus is more competitive

6 hrs (w/lab) Math

MA 171 & MA 281/ST 281

Courses positively adding to your application, but are not required:
CourseWhat to Take at UAH
Biochemistry BYS 361
Cell & Dev. Biology BYS 300
Microbiology BYS 321/321L
Genetics BYS 219

We strongly recommend Biochemistry in your list of courses. It will help your application, assist in dental school, and help on your DAT (entrance exam). Most upper level science courses will prove you are interested in science, enjoy an in depth look into these subjects, and will greatly assist you on the DAT.

The above courses support required and suggested coursework for Alabama schools. The combination of courses are guidelines and specific requirements may differ amongst schools.


The Dental Admissions Test (DAT) is a standardized exam administered through the American Dental Association. This test measures general academic ability and comprehension of four basic areas for success in dental school and in the industry:

  • Survey of the Natural Sciences (including biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry) (90 min)
  • Perceptual Ability Test (60 min)
  • Reading Comprehension Test (60 min)
  • and Quantitative Reasoning Test (45 min)

Although coursework in physics is required for admission to dental school, physics is not a subject covered by the DAT. The exam runs at ~5 hours, including breaks. Check out the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) Guide to read more details about this exam.


One way to prepare for the DAT is to review the content of the exam (go to the DAT Guide and scroll to the "Test Specifications" at the end of the document). Review the concepts, analyze them, and compare with personal coursework. Preparation should include repeated practice DAT exams, available in book and CD form, and repeated studying of personal strengths and weaknesses. Students should familiarize themselves in particular with the perceptual ability problems included on the DAT.

Timing & Testing

The DAT is administered year round at various test centers. Students must apply to take the DAT. If approved, students receive an e-mail informing you to schedule a date at one of their nearby test centers.

Immediately upon completing the DAT an unofficial score report is received. Our office can use this score in the UAH committee letter process, but official scores will still need to be sent to the appropriate places, which may take 3-4 weeks.

Many students take the DAT the Spring semester of their Junior year.

Students must wait at least 90 days between testing dates. Keep this in mind when planning on when to take the exam.

Many programs have "rolling admission" deadlines; meaning seats at their school begin to be filled as soon as their application cycle opens. It becomes crucial to apply early.

Making an appointment with the Pre-Health Advisor is crucial before taking the DAT.

Outside Class It's More Than Just Grades


What are you truly passionate about? What motivates you to make a difference in the world? This passion could be turned into a project, which showcases your characteristics as a person.

Health Care Experiences

What better way to make sure you want to be in healthcare than by shadowing? Gain experiences and possible references. Consistent and committed shadowing will go a long way in not only making you a mature applicant, but making sure others see you as prepared.

Community Service and Volunteering

Working in healthcare means having a heart of service. This means wanting to give back to the community (in both health related and non-health related ways). Find something enjoyable and go forth! Spend dedicated and committed time in service areas. 

Keeping a Journal

Keep a journal and use it to record thoughts on your experiences. Activities come to life with reflection. Topics to consider writing about may include: Why one chose their profession, shadowing, or volunteering. This journal will be very helpful when it comes to writing your personal statement.


Research experience can provide you with the opportunity to work with faculty, learn skills beyond the classroom, use research methods, and engage in critical analysis. Research allows a better understanding between theory and practice using innovative and creative thinking.

And More!

Getting into professional school is not about accomplishing the perfect checklist. It's about truly desiring to be a better person and better future healthcare professional. It's a complex process and we're here to help!