What are the best in the US? The elite Ivy League dental schools? Public Ivy dental schools? Or publicly-funded, state dental schools? Or somewhere in between? If you’re thinking about then your choice of dental school is an important one. You have to consider many things, such as location, cost, quality of the curriculum, and length of program. You also have to review to see what you need academically and professionally to be accepted. So even though the “best” dental school in the US for you comes down to personal choice, this article will list some of the best dental schools in the US based on such factors as their minimum GPA and DAT scores; tuition fees; acceptance rates, and also list some but are still top-notch when it comes to education and research.
Listen to the blog!
Ready to succeed in your dental school interview? Watch our video now!
Acceptance Rate: 3.18%
Minimum GPA: 3.6
Minimum DAT Score: 20
Total Cost of Attendance (including tuition, housing, fees): $101,872
hosts several professional schools, such as the and the , but the Dental School is equally world-renowned and shares a reputation for excellence, stringent admission requirements and one of the lowest . Harvard Dental School does not have minimum requirements to apply, but to make your application more competitive you should try to get your GPA and DAT scores somewhere near or above the minimum required. If you have a low GPA and DAT scores, then you should try to focus on improving your application in other ways, such as focusing on getting good , as they are also an important deciding factor for many dental school admissions committees.
But what makes HSDM one of the best dental schools in the US?
Aside from the sheen of the Harvard name, HSDM also features a world-class curriculum and intensive education and training opportunities only it can offer. For example, you can begin your dental career in a pre-dental, advanced graduate program and take classes at the medical school to broaden your knowledge of human anatomy but also patient care. If you are accepted into the graduate DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) program, you’ll have hands-on patient experience in your first year, and be a part of the effort to bring free dental health care to the underserved through the Harvard Dental Center.
Acceptance Rate: 3.9%
Minimum GPA: 3.6
Average DAT Score: 22
Total Cost of Attendance In-state (including tuition, housing, fees): $98,382
Out-of-State Cost of Attendance: $110,627
The USCSF School of Dentistry is a highly competitive program, so it is not one of the . You must complete a series of dental school prerequisites, and complete them with a C- or higher to be considered. You can also apply as a Canadian graduate, although the school does not accept the Canadian DAT, so you have to take the American one to get in.
The school offers several DMD degrees, such as a four-year DMD degree, a combined DMD and PhD, or a dual DMD/MBA, which is unique to its program's offerings. While Canadian students may apply to the standard, four-year DMD program with their Canadian degree, international students with neither a US or Canadian degree can apply for the International Dentist Pathway, which will give you an accredited dental school degree to practice in the US.
Even though UCSF is a state school is does not show preference for California residents, although tuition fees are slightly less for California students. The UCSF School of Dentistry is one of the best dental schools in the US because of the breadth of academic programs that cater to any type of student.
If you’re a student from an underrepresented community who needs an extra year of post-bac study before applying for the DMD program, you can apply to the Interprofessional Post-Bac Health Certificate program to increase your knowledge, your GPA (if needed), and give you a better grounding for your future dental school classes. If you’re a dental school graduate and want to complete your residency, UCSF has ten different specializations you can take including a Master in Public Health or an Advanced Dental Health degree.
Acceptance Rate: 5%
Average GPA: 3.7
Average DAT Score: 23.4
Total Cost of Attendance (including tuition, housing, fees): $138,680
Getting your dental degree from Columbia will be expensive. In fact, the total cost of attendance for one year in the MD program ($108,499) at the is less than one year at the dental college, which should give you an idea of how elite the Columbia DDS program is. The admissions requirements are also strict and much more onerous than other programs. You have to have completed a year of study in the three natural sciences (biology, physics, organic and inorganic chemistry) and have a full bachelor’s degree from either the US or Canada.
But you get your money’s worth at Columbia, and it is often ranked one of the best dental schools in the US because of its wealth of academic offerings. It has a standard, four-year DDS program, but it also offers a series of interdisciplinary degrees such as a DDS/MPH and a DDS/MBA. Columbia is also unique for integrating dental education with medical education.
Dental students regularly take classes at the medical school, which is something offered only at four dental schools in the US (the other three are Harvard, UPenn, UConn). If you have already completed your dental degree, you can also apply for various post-doctoral fellowships or residency programs at Columbia, which are taught by expert faculty and gives you access to the school’s network of dental clinics, research centers, and other healthcare facilities throughout New York City.
Acceptance Rate: 6.5%
Average GPA: 3.81
Average DAT Score: 22
Total Cost of Attendance In-State (including tuition, housing, fees): $95,155
Total Cost of Attendance Out-of-State: $111,660
The University of Michigan School of Dentistry regularly finds itself on best-of lists simply for the breadth, variety and flexibility of its programs. The school has recently revamped its DDS curriculum and has introduced different pathways for you to follow. The two pathways – Immersion and Selectives – have different endpoints and intentions, but the overall goal of either pathway is to give you greater autonomy over your studies.
In the Immersion pathways, you choose a specific topic of research in your first or second year and choose your electives based on that research project. Your studies culminate in you presenting a capstone project based on your research topic. But the Selectives pathways lets you choose from a variety of electives so you can broaden your knowledge across several specialities and sub-specialities of dentistry.
But you have to get in first. The school does not require a full bachelor’s degree (only 90 credits), but it has ten required prerequisites that you must complete with a C or higher. You must also have at least 100 hours of dentist shadowing under your belt, so you should figure out if you’re thinking about getting into this program. The school also employs the format to interview potential students, so if you’re not familiar with the format, you need to look over to have an idea of what is asked and how to respond.
Acceptance Rate: 6.1%
Minimum GPA: 3.2
Average DAT Score: 20
Total Cost of Attendance (including tuition, housing, fees): $143,122
The (UPenn) is well-regarded for all of its professional schools, including its medical school and the , but the dental school is equally rigorous in its training, education, and admissions requirements. It is the quality, breadth and expansion of the school’s research goals and capacity that makes UPenn one of the best dental schools in the US.
UPenn has three independent research centers on campus, and is continually piloting new research projects involving dentistry, one of the most recent being a nationally-accredited workshop to train dentists on how to treat people with disabilities. It also has six separate specialty clinics so you can learn from a wide-range of sub-specialities, or choose to concentrate on one specific specialty such as oral surgery, pediatric dentistry, or orthodontics.
You need to have a completed a series of prerequisites to be eligible to apply, as well as completing a full bachelor’s degree from a US or Canadian school. The school is private so it is both a and an out-of-state-friendly dental school. UPenn also distinguishes itself as a community-centered institution. It makes service-learning a required part of its DMD curriculum and you must complete at least one service-learning elective for each of your four years at the school.
Acceptance Rate: 6.1%
Minimum GPA: 3.2
Average DAT Score: 19-20
Total Cost of Attendance In-State (including tuition, housing, fees): $99,856
Total Cost of Attendance Out-of-State: $128,253
The University of Washington School of Dentistry is an excellent school, but mostly if you are from Washington and have a real desire to learn, research and practice in the state. The school is state-funded, but it does accept applications from all states and Canada, although you may have a hard time getting in. Close to 81% of the school’s most recent incoming class were from Washington, and there was only one international student admitted last year.
The nature of the school and its location mean that it has developed several state-specific initiatives that make it one of the best dental schools in the US. You can participate in the Regional Initiatives in Dental Education (RIDE) program that sees you traveling to various rural and remote parts of the state to practice in small, community clinics. The RIDE program is one of the many different tracks you can take to get your DDS, with the others including various dual-degree programs and a standard, four-year program.
But even if you take the standard four-year program, you will still participate in a five-week service-learning rotation that puts you in direct contact with patients from all over Washington. Dental professionals can also take advantage of the school’s various continuing education programs, while pre-dental students can participate in the Summer Health Professions Education Program as a pre-cursor to applying for the regular DDS program.
Acceptance Rate: 6.3%
Minimum GPA: 2.8
Average DAT Score: 17
Total Cost of Attendance In-State (including tuition, housing, fees): $77,308
Total Cost of Attendance Out-of-State: $88,108
The UT Health Science Center School of Dentistry is often ranked as one of the best dental schools in Texas, which means it has earned its spot on the list of best dental schools in the US as well. The school is state-funded, so it does have a preference for in-state applicants. If you’re applying from out-of-state, you have to have exceptional GPA, DAT scores or a list of long, and substantial to have a chance of being admitted.
UT Health Science is also one dental school where you can complete your entire dental school career at the university/dental school, as it offers three bachelor degrees in dental hygiene that could act as a springboard to the DDS program. Once you feel ready to apply to the DDS program, UT Health Sciences San Antonio has four different pathways for becoming a DDS, which are:
- Early Assurance Program (BSc/DDS - 3 + 4)
- A DDS/PhD
- A Traditional Four-Year DDS
- An International DDS Program
Acceptance Rate: 5%
Average GPA: 3.27
Average DAT Score: 19
Total Cost of Attendance In-State (including tuition, housing, fees): $144,781
The Tufts University School of Dental Medicine is another program that offers a comprehensive dental education, as you can apply to the dental school while still completing your bachelor’s degree from Tufts through its Early Admission program. The school has no residency requirements so you can apply from out-of-state or if you are a graduate from a Canadian university. The school even accepts the Canadian DAT so you don’t have to take the American one.
If you are still not sure about your , and feel you need more education or training, you can apply to the pre-doctoral program at Tufts that has easier admission requirements, and gives you a chance to increase your GPA or help you study for the DAT. Once you have completed this program, you can then apply to the standard, four-year DMD program. If you’re an international student, you can apply to the International DMD program that offers foreign-trained doctors the chance to receive accreditation in the US.
The school’s sterling reputation for research is one of the reasons why it places consistently on list of the best dental schools in the US. It has 17 different dental clinics focused on various dental specialties and sub-specialties, as well as nine separate academic departments covering everything from orthodontics to pediatric dentistry. While clinical experience and direct-patient contact will come in your second year, the first year of your studies is when you will develop competencies in key areas such as identifying and diagnosing various dental diseases, community service projects and public health issues surrounding oral health.
Acceptance Rate: 5%
Average GPA: 3.83
Average DAT Score: 23
Total Cost of Attendance In-State (including tuition, housing, fees): $109,952
Total Cost of Attendance Out-of-State: $122,197
Even though it has only one DDS pathway, UCLA School of Dentistry is often on the best dental schools in the US for the amount of community service and clinical education included in its curriculum. The school promotes a Community-Based Clinical Education (CBCE), meaning that students are actively encouraged, sometimes required, to participate in free clinics and see underprivileged patients throughout their dental school careers. The school’s network of community clinics around Los Angeles sees over 4,000 patients a year, and serving in the community is one of the main draws of the DDS program at .
Aside from the traditional, four-year DDS program, UCLA also offers pre-dentists programs for qualified undergraduates who want to expand their knowledge of dental science, and oral health before applying to the DDS program. You can either choose to enroll in the school’s post-bac program for aspiring dentists, or watch a series of dental school lectures to prepare you for the academic rigor of the program.
Acceptance Rate: n/a
Average GPA: 3.5-3.6
Average DAT Score: 21-22
Total Cost of Attendance In-State (including tuition, housing, fees): $44,402
Total Cost of Attendance New England Region: $75,371
Total Cost of Attendance Out-of-State: $86,463
The UConn School of Dentistry, like the UConn School of Medicine, is a state-funded institution, so while you can apply if you are from out-of-state or from any state in New England, preference will be given to students from Connecticut. The school has deep ties to the state. Close to 50% of all practicing dentists in the state either graduated or studied, at one point, at UConn.
Through its myriad community dental clinics, the UConn School of Dentistry and its students are the largest dental healthcare provider in the state. You can demonstrate your willingness to serve the citizens of Connecticut by enrolling in the special tracks the school offers depending on your area of interest. You can apply for the Urban Track that sees you rotating between several sites throughout the state, while also receiving instruction in other healthcare disciplines such as medicine, nursing, and pharmacology.
But you can also take advantage of the several research opportunities the school offers its students. During the summer, you can engage in a self-directed research project, or join a faculty-led project to increase your lab and research skills, while also earning credits toward your degree through extracurriculars and electives. But the school also offers two combined degree programs – DMD/MPH; DMD/PhD - that you can take if you want a more interdisciplinary education.
Get Good Stats
The best dental schools in the US make no secret about what they’re looking for in your application, and a high GPA and DAT scores are usually at the top of that list. Of course, dental schools say they review all applications holistically, and it is largely true, but that does not mean you should ignore certain parts of your application. You should also write excellent personal statements, essays, and read over to prepare for an interview, but ensuring you have a “good-enough” GPA or DAT score should be a priority. You can make a to keep you on track with your application timeline, while giving you enough time to study for the test and possibly do a retake. If you’re unsure about your GPA, you can try enrolling in one of the post-bac or health professions certificate programs that are supposed to prepare you for dental school to either increase your GPA or expand your knowledge base.
What do we mean by “apply locally”? We mean that you should find programs within your state or region that will be easier for you to be admitted to than out-of-state schools that often prefer resident applications. Getting into dental school is hard enough, you don’t need to make it even more challenging by applying to schools outside your area solely because of their reputation. Of course, if you have personal or other reasons to attend a particular school, then, apply and mention those reasons in your (UT Health prefers Texas residents, but if you live for 12 months in Texas, you’ll be considered a resident). But also make sure to answer the question “” in your application, as many schools will want to know why you are applying there.
Get a Lot of Shadowing Hours
Shadowing a dentist, similar to shadowing a doctor, has become one of the more sought-after dental school requirements recently. More and more schools are either making it a requirement, such as the University of Michigan and the UConn School of Dentistry, or recommending it. Either way, shadowing a dentist is beneficial to you for reasons far beyond helping you get into dental school. You’ll be in direct contact with a practicing dentist every day, which will give you an inside look at what it's like to be a dentist day-to-day. Even if your schools do not require shadowing hours, you should still seek out the experience as a way to demonstrate your commitment and interest in the field of dentistry.
Get Excellent Letters of Recommendation
After GPA and DAT scores, most dental school admissions committees view the quality of your letters of recommendation as the third most important aspect of your application. Every dental school has its own rules and regulations about who should write your letters, and you should always follow their guidelines, but a general rule to apply when asking for letters is that you should focus on people who’ve known you for a long time, and can adequately attest to your qualities as a student, and future dentist. Some schools will ask for letters from people who you’ve known for a long time (excluding friends and family), while others will require letters from science professors, and personal references or some combination of both. Regardless, when you’re asking for your letters of recommendation, make sure you ask the right people.
The best dental schools in the US range from the elite Ivy League to public, state schools that put a lot of emphasis on public service. But the “best” dental school for you should come down to what you are looking for in a program, both academically and personally. You do not have to study at any of the best dental schools in the US if you have other choices and considerations about where you want to study and why. This list is only a guide to help you decide on which program is best for you, but don’t feel like you have to choose one of these to fulfill your dreams of becoming a dentist.
1. What is the best dental school in the US?
We listed some of the best dentals schools in the US in this article, but you should make your own criteria for what is the best dental school for you, based on what you want to get out of the program (lots of research opportunities; community involvement; global dental rotations). There are close to 80 dental schools in the US so you have many options to choose from.
2. How should I choose my dental school?
3. What qualities does the best dental school in the US have?
We listed some already, but the best dental schools in the US usually have a combination of a wide-range of pre-dentist, graduate and post-graduate opportunities, affordable tuition, many extracurricular opportunities, great location to live, work and study, and receptive, supportive faculty who will help guide and assist you during your studies.
4. What do I need to get into the best dental schools in the US?
You need to have great stats, including your DAT and GPA scores, as well as excellent letters of recommendation. You also have to have hands-on experience shadowing a dentist, as well as various service-oriented commitments that demonstrate you have a focus on helping others.
5. Are the best dental schools in the US the hardest?
The best dental schools in the US usually do have higher academic standards to get in, and to graduate. But the rigors of the curriculum are not that difficult if you have the right mindset and take advantage of the student support offered at every dental school such as personalized tutoring and advice from faculty and your classmates.
6. How much does tuition cost at the best dental schools in the US?
Tuition and the cost of attendance varies from each dental school in the US, especially those that charge different fees based on your residency. If you’re choosing a top-flight program then you will be looking at a minimum, $100,000 for a single year. State schools may charge less, but only if you are a resident.
7. How should I choose a dental school?
You should choose a dental school based on your personal preferences, which can be anything from a desire to live and study in that school’s state or city, the faculty, the availability of scholarships, and networking opportunities, or the amount of different post-graduate residency programs.
8. Do dental school rankings matter?
They only matter to provide a snapshot of what kind of programs exist and what features and qualities appeal most to you, but, in general, any list or ranking of dental schools shouldn’t be a deciding factor in helping you choose a school. You should follow your own guidelines and preferences when choosing a program.