Predental Guide for New Incoming Students
This section provides information on planning for admission to dental school, beginning with your first semester in college. When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, make sure to mention your intention to follow a predental preparatory program. You’ll then be subscribed to the HPPLC mailing list and receive invitations to participate in predental events, including visits to campus by the Director of Admissions of the Indiana University School of Dentistry. Consult University Division resources for more information on planning for summer orientation.
Description of the Profession
Dentists diagnose, prevent, and treat problems with teeth or mouth tissue. They remove decay, fill cavities, examine x-rays, place protective plastic sealants on children’s teeth, straighten teeth, and repair fractured teeth. They provide instruction on diet, brushing, flossing, the use of fluorides, and other aspects of dental care.
What Should You Consider about this Profession?
If you’re thinking about becoming a dentist you should have very strong skills in math and science, and be able to complete a rigorous set of courses before starting dental school. Dentists work with their hands, and must have extremely well-developed fine motor skills, manual dexterity, and hand-eye coordination. Good communication and interpersonal skills are also necessary, as well as the capacity to provide support and put anxious patients at ease. Dentists must have the ability to work for long periods of time with great concentration and attention to detail.
Choosing Your Degree and Major
Many predental students ask, “What is the best major if I want to go to dental school?” There is no “best major” for dental school. IUB does not offer a “predental major.” You can select any major IUB offers and combine it with the courses required for admission to dental school. You can select either a science or non-science major. (For more advice concerning the decision on a major click here). In other words, there doesn’t have to be an obvious connection between your major and dentistry. Dental schools don’t select students based on their major; instead they look at an applicant’s skills and abilities as reflected in the application. Dental schools look for students with a strong foundation in the sciences who have developed sharp analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills. Your predental coursework, in addition to coursework in the humanities and social sciences, is geared to help you acquire these skills. While having a strong grasp of the sciences is a must, you don’t necessarily have to major in a science field.
Bachelor of Arts Versus Bachelor of Science
Many students ask whether a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree is more appealing to dental schools. Dental schools do not have a preference for either a B.A. or a B.S., although there are differences in these degrees. Generally with a B.S., you will complete more course work up to a more advanced level in your major field, whereas with a B.A., you will be required to complete fewer courses in your major, which leaves more room to take a variety of coursework in other fields.
Dental School Admissions Requirements
While you can choose any major or degree, you must complete rigorous courses in the sciences to be admitted to dental school. The standard requirements for admission to most dental schools include courses in biology, possibly including basic human anatomy and basic human physiology, general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics, including lecture and lab in each area (for more specific information on dental school admission requirements, consult this page on the HPPLC website). Your coursework in biology, general/inorganic chemistry, and organic chemistry will provide important preparation for the DAT exam. If you are prepared and have completed coursework in these areas, it is recommended you study and take the DAT during the summer after your sophomore year.
Your Course Load
A normal course load for most preprofessional students is 14-16 total credit hours. That means you’ll probably be enrolling in from four to six classes. During New Student Orientation, an academic advisor will help you double-check your options, choose appropriate courses, and plan an appropriate course load in which you’ll be able to be successful. To earn strong grades and succeed in being admitted, most predental students need to devote about 30 hours per week outside of class to studying and class preparation.
Planning Your Fall Course Options
During your fall semester, you should complete at least one predental science course. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to complete other coursework for your undergraduate degree and major. Consult the University Division website on how to plan your fall course schedule for any of the majors you are considering.
As a predental student you have many chemistry courses to complete, so if you are prepared you should enroll in chemistry during your first semester in college, or the second semester at the latest. As a first step toward completing chemistry requirements, you should complete CHEM-C 117 Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I (lecture) and CHEM-C 127 (lab). However, some students will need to complete a preparatory course before they are ready for CHEM-C 117/127. In order to determine your placement into chemistry, you should take the Chemistry Placement Exam.
The DAT exam covers biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry, but not physics, so in planning your course sequencing it is often best to prioritize biology and chemistry coursework, and leave physics for junior or senior year.
If for some reason you choose not to enroll in chemistry your first semester, we recommend you enroll in a biology predental course (options would be BIOL-L 111 or BIOL-L 112, if you have the appropriate chemistry background already). If you are an extremely strong student in the sciences, consider enrolling in both chemistry and biology coursework your first semester. Be aware, however, that many students are surprised by how challenging it is to take more than one required science course their first semester of college. Whatever you decide, make sure to discuss your science background with your academic advisor.
During your first semester at IUB you will also need to enroll in other courses besides your predental coursework, including courses for the major(s) you are considering and courses that fulfill General Education requirements at IUB. In particular, Arts and Humanities (A&H) and Social and Historical (S&H) courses are important in helping you build the communication and analytical skills that dental schools desire in applicants. World Languages and Cultures courses can deepen your understanding of the ideas and values of different cultures and help you develop skills and competencies important for working with a diverse patient population. You may also consider enrolling in classes such as 3D fine arts or instrumental music to develop your manual dexterity skills.
Other Activities for Predental Students During the First Year of College
For the first year of college, other activities you may consider include gaining experience in a dental environment through shadowing dentists or volunteering, as well as other community service activities. You should also attend HPPLC events. Most predental students find their first semester taking college-level science coursework surprisingly challenging, so you shouldn’t feel the pressure to overload yourself with extracurricular activities. You may also find it useful to job shadow dental professionals during your breaks from school. Many predental students find the science coursework challenging, so if you’re sure that you want a career in healthcare, but aren’t so sure about being a dentist, there are many other health professions you could pursue. Consult the HPPLC website for more information on preparing for dental school and services for predental students.