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How to Study Dentistry in the U.S.

Earning a college degree in the United States is a common goal for immigrants who want to succeed because it opens doors and allows them to compete for the best jobs available. There are numerous professional fields and industries from which to choose. Dentistry is one of the most in-demand professions offering numerous growth opportunities. A career in dentistry can be deeply rewarding on a personal, professional, and educational level.

To study dentistry in the United States, you must meet certain requirements in order to apply to dental school. We understand how important it is for you and your family to complete your education and begin your career. That's why SABEResPODER developed this comprehensive guide to provide you with the resources you need to make all of your dental dreams a reality! 

What is the Field of Dentistry Like in the U.S.?

In the United States, dentists are professionals that practice different oral healthcare techniques. It’s estimated that 80% of dentists work in general dentistry, providing teeth cleanings, filling cavities, and offering basic oral healthcare and maintenance. Dentists work in clinics and centers that are regulated by the federal authorities.

Dentistry in the U.S. is a postgraduate study program. To apply for dental school, you must either have a bachelor's degree or have completed all the undergraduate prerequisite courses. While this might sound intimidating at first, there are many options that will put you on the path to graduation. Check out our guide on how to apply for college and continue your education.  

Reasons to Study Dentistry

One of the primary reasons that many people enter the healthcare field is to gain the opportunity to help people improve their quality of life. Dentistry is also a very lucrative career, with professionals earning an average annual salary between $110,000 and $200,000.

Once you obtain a degree in dentistry, you can open a private practice or work for a larger institution. There is also a wide range of options in the research and scientific fields as well. 

Keep in mind: If you specialize in a particular field of dentistry, your salary and earnings can increase. The more specialized areas of oral healthcare are typically the best paid.

Requirements to Study Dentistry in the U.S.

You’ll have to meet a series of requirements to be able to study to be a dentist in the U.S. The prerequisites tend to be the same at most universities and specialized centers. The primary requirements to study dentistry in the U.S. are:

  • A bachelor’s degree. Remember that in the U.S., bachelor’s degrees in dentistry aren’t offered. You’ll have to take undergraduate classes that fill your prerequisite requirements such as chemistry, math, physics, and behavioral sciences. 
  • A good level of English 
  • Preferably legal permanent immigration status 

Keep in mind: Some universities will allow you to study even if you’ve completed less than 90 undergraduate hours in the subjects that are indicated as a prerequisite. This will depend on the university and the state in which they’re located. 

The Dental School Admission Process

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In addition to meeting the requirements above, you’ll have to go through an admission process that dental schools use to evaluate your candidacy.  

Dental Admission Test (DAT)

The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is an exam that evaluates your knowledge relevant to the field of dentistry. This is the admissions test that every dental school applicant must take. Your score is one component of your application that dental schools use to determine whether or not to admit you. 

To sign up for the test, you’ll have to visit the DAT website and go to the “start my application” section. Then, enter your Dental Personal Identification Number (DENTPIN) that you created beforehand. The DENTPIN is an eight-digit number that allows you to access different dental school application components. Dental schools also use this number to identify you as an applicant. To create a DENTPIN, go to this website and fill out your information.

Keep in mind: If you’re interested in taking the DAT, note that it costs $475. This fee includes the report with your test scores alongside a performance summary for your pre-dental advisor. 

Other important components of the admissions process

During the dental school application process, you might have to complete a few more steps beyond taking the DAT and fulfilling the other basic requirements. These elements include: 

  • Personal interviews with admissions officers or alumni to learn about your career goals and objectives for the school to get to know you better
  • Tests to evaluate your English level 
  • A cover letter explaining why you want to study dentistry
  • A recommendation letter from your undergraduate university. You can also ask for a letter of recommendation from the dentist or dental practice where you worked. 

Types of Dentistry Degrees in the U.S.

In the U.S. you can graduate with one of two degrees: Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). As the name implies, the latter degree focuses more on surgery, while the former is focused on caring for and restoring teeth and other dental pieces to care for patients’ oral health. 

After completing your studies, you can specialize in a more specific area of dental health. The most common specializations in the U.S. are: 

  • Endodontics
  • Orthodontics
  • Prosthodontics
  • Periodontics
  • Maxillofacial surgery
  • Pediatric dentistry


The Top-Rated Dental Schools in the U.S.

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There are a number of prestigious dental schools in the U.S. These institutions train future dentists and allow them to practice under the care of licensed professionals in order to gain hands-on experience. The following are a few of the top-rated schools in the United States: 

Harvard University

Harvard Dental School is world renowned for its technological advances, academic research, and training of high-quality professionals. At Harvard, you can study all facets of dentistry with an emphasis on making the most of its cutting-edge technology. 

Keep in mind: For more information about the program and the admissions process, check out Harvard’s website.

Texas A&M University

Even if you don’t live in Texas, the Texas A&M dental program is definitely worth looking into. This academic institution carries over 100 years of tradition and its dental school is one of the country’s best. 

Keep in mind: To learn more about the program, the admissions process, and contact information, check out the “Admissions” section of their website.

University of North Carolina

The dental program at the University of North Carolina is one of the most comprehensive in terms of providing in-depth training for future dentists. The program is technology-based and focuses on practical learning to provide students with better training that helps them achieve their professional goals.

Keep in mind: For more information, visit the university website's "Education" section. 

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

UCLA’s dental school is one of the top six in the world. Located in Los Angeles, this university is known for its practical research methodologies and cutting-edge technologies.

Keep in mind: For more information about student services at this prestigious institution, check out the website’s “Academic & Admissions” section. 

University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

If you’re looking for a program centered around learning and hands-on experience, UCSF is for you. Because the dental school treats 100,000 patients every year, its academic program is very practical-experience intensive. As a result, having studied here means you’ll likely get a job quickly after graduation.

Keep in mind: Visit the "Programs & Admissions" section of the school’s website for further information.

New York University

New York University boasts a strong reputation nationwide and is a leader in dental education.  NYU also offers a scientific research program that comprises a strong international student body.

Keep in mind: For more information about NYU and its dental program, check out the “Admissions/Academics” section of the school’s website. 

Financial Aid Options for Dental Students

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There are a wide variety of scholarships and financial aid available for dental students. Among them are:

Dental Trade Alliance Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship is granted by the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation and aims to help the thousands of students that require financial aid. To qualify for this scholarship, you must be a full-time student with good grades and be able to demonstrate your need for financial assistance.

Keep in mind: You can’t apply for this type of scholarship individually. To be eligible to apply or win this scholarship, you must be nominated by the institution where you're studying. The scholarship amount can range from $5,000 to $25,000.

Hispanic Dental Association Foundation Scholarship

These scholarships help Hispanic students in the U.S. who are already enrolled in a dentistry program. The scholarship amount ranges from $2,000 to $5,000 and helps pay for expenses during the student’s time in school.
Keep in mind: Check out the website to find out more and apply for this scholarship.

National Hispanic Scholarship for Health Professionals

This scholarship provides support to Hispanic health science students. You can apply for this scholarship if you’re enrolled in a dental school, have good grades, and have a proven interest or active involvement in the Hispanic community.

Keep in mind: For more information, visit the website to learn all about the application process and requirements.

Alternatives to Studying Dentistry

For many people, dentistry school in the U.S. is an expensive endeavor. But that isn’t a reason to avoid this career path! The dental field includes many options, some of which include:

Dental hygienist

These professionals work side by side with dentists. They assist with cleanings, taking panoramic x-rays, and teach patients about proper brushing techniques. An average dental hygienist’s salary ranges from $60,000 to $70,000, depending on the office or company where you work.

You’ll need to complete a three-year course of study, which is offered by some universities, to become a dental hygienist. You can also opt for a training program instead of obtaining a degree, though most dentists and offices require a degree and a license in order to work.

Dental technician

Dental technicians create different dental prostheses that dentists and specialists (like an orthodontist or maxillofacial surgeon) might need for their patients. Dental technicians are very well-paid in the U.S. and can earn up to $85 an hour. Available courses and training programs generally involve a short theoretical class and mostly focus on the job’s practical applications.

How to Get a Dentistry Degree as a Foreigner

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To get a dentistry degree as a foreigner, you’ll have to meet the requirements above. If you already meet these requirements and have a dentistry degree from your home country, you’ll have to complete an Advanced Program certified by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). This will let existing dentists obtain their degrees in the U.S. in just two years and practice with their foreign license.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find dental programs online?

If you want to know which schools offer dental programs, check out the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) website for a list of schools across the country. These programs generally share a common set of requirements and specifications. If you have further questions, you can always check their website. 

How much do dentists earn in the U.S.?

Dentistry is a prestigious profession in the U.S. and pays very well. On average, a dentist can earn between $110,000 and $200,000 per year, depending on the state. These salaries can be even higher if you decide to open a private practice. Being a dentist in the U.S. is a great career choice in terms of earning money.  

How many years does dental school take in the U.S.?

Dental school programs in the U.S. last four years. If you studied dentistry in your home country, you can graduate in up to two years. Dental school involves theoretical and practical components which contribute to the course of study’s longer duration.

Sink Your Teeth Into Studying Dentistry in the U.S.!

The road to becoming a dentist in the U.S. can be challenging but extremely rewarding, professionally and personally. Strict standards and requirements for both admission and graduation ensure that only highly competent professionals enter and succeed in the field. 

At SABEResPODER, we’re here to give you all the tools you need to stay informed and learn about ways to study in the U.S. Our practical guides will help keep you up to date and help you on your journey living, working, and thriving in the United States. 

Remember, SABEResPODER!