Knowing the best majors for dentistry is an important part of figuring out , along with knowing . Fortunately, there is no wrong choice. Dentists come from all walks of life and you don’t have to choose a specific major, program, or school, as long as you meet other important , such as having a good GPA and DAT scores. When you decide to become a dentist is an important factor, though. If you’re in high school and know for certain you want to be a dentist, there are certain majors for dentistry that would be better than others. But if you’ve made the decision to be a dentist as a graduate, this article will also describe how you can get into dental school with the degree you have, along with other steps you need to take.
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- Dental Hygiene
- Health or Biomedical Sciences
- Public Health
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Biology is an essential course for any healthcare-related profession, but given there are so many different sub-specialties within biology, your major for dentistry can be anything that studies the biology of plants, animals, or the evolution of populations, such as ecology, zoology or oceanography. Taking a bachelor of science or arts in any of these biology courses will prepare you to understand and familiarize yourself with topics, such as:
- Genetics and DNA
- Bacterial growth and evolution
- Cell theory
- Diversity of organisms
Knowing how cells interact with each other is important to helping prevent oral disease impacting the rest of the body, helping you prescribe treatments and prevention techniques to your patients. A foundation in any of the biological sciences is also crucial for diagnosing dental issues. Taking biology as your major for dentistry will also expose you to other science and math disciplines that are just as essential to getting into dental school, such as statistics, biophysics and calculus.
As a biology major, you’ll also be doing a lot of lab work, which is another requirement that nearly all dental schools require, along with other healthcare-related professions. Many schools require that your science prerequisites also include laboratory work that you have to detail on your in the section, and taking a biology major will help meet those requirements.
Majoring in chemistry is another science-based option and will help prepare you to understand concepts central to dentistry such as:
- What teeth, gums, and saliva are made of
- The way different substances affect oral health
- The ways oral disease can affect the rest of the body
But chemistry is also a key subject to becoming a good researcher, if that is something you want to pursue either while in dental school or as a post-graduate specialty. Chemistry is about the ways substances (organic and inorganic) interact, but you’ll also need to know how the molecular structure of these substances affect human health, as well as other substances used in treatments (pharmaceutical drugs, for example), which is why chemistry is such an important subject for dentists, as well as doctors, PAs and other healthcare professionals.
Biochemistry combines the facets of studying the processes of cells and living organisms and how they are affected by other substances, organic or inorganic. Many dental schools require this specific course in their admissions criteria since it forms the basis for understanding, diagnosing and preventing disease or prescribing a specific treatment. But the interdisciplinary nature of this field is also what makes it so germane to studying dentistry, as you’ll also discover more about:
- Communication between cells and other parts of the body
- The ways molecules function before, during and after interacting with each other
- Possible methods to regulate these processes
Having experience and knowledge in biochemistry is important to learning how the body works, but is also a good foundation to expand into other fields of science or within dentistry. If you decide to pursue further training in a dental specialty after graduation, such as oral and maxillofacial pathology, which involves investigating the nature, causes and possible treatments for disease specific to this region of the body, you’ll be better prepared with a biochemistry degree. Oral medicine is another dental specialty that is relevant to biochemistry. Even though it is broader than other specialties, oral medicine still involves research, investigation and knowledge of all the possible causes of a disease or any abnormality.
4. Dental Hygiene
Although there is no “official” major for dentistry, getting a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene is maybe the best option to prepare you for how to be a dentist and how to get into dental school, especially if you are certain you want to be a dentist. Many of the courses offered within a four-year bachelor of hygiene degree are similar to the courses offered in dental school, such as:
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Microbiology and Infection Control
- Dental Anatomy and Dental Radiography
But they are less specialized, as a dental hygiene degree is supposed to act as an introduction to dentistry suitable for high school students. Taking a dental hygiene degree is also a good way to have hands-on experience in a simulated clinical environment, if you want to get your hands into the profession as soon as possible.
Like in dental school, real-world clinical experience forms an important part of your training during a dental hygiene program, so you can learn early-on if you are comfortable with the physical demands of dentistry. But even more important are the courses on patient interaction, communication skills, professionalism and ethics that are also taught in dental school to a higher degree, but are not taught in other majors for dentistry, and which will benefit you more in the long run.
A degree in sociology may not seem like the best choice for a major for dentistry, but social interactions, social behavior, community, culture and all the other ways that society functions can help you become a more compassionate and proactive dentist. Dental and medical schools have all introduced social science and sociological frameworks into medical and dental education for the simple reason that social factors impact health, as much as biological and environmental factors.
Having a grounding in these issues can help you identify what is preventing your patients from properly addressing their various oral health issues, while also giving you another, more empathetic approach to treating, diagnosing and prescribing treatment. Knowing that your patients have other factors affecting their oral health may help you and them devise more personalized treatments that take those factors into consideration.
Studying the mind and behavior is something that will help you become a more well-rounded dentist and healthcare professional. Psychology is a popular major for dentistry because it is another interdisciplinary major that combines aspects of:
- Human development
- Cognitive processes
- Brain function and dysfunction
All of which contribute to becoming a competent and versatile dentist. The clinical aspect of taking a psychology major is important to recognize as well. Along with learning about the psychological and social determinants of behavior, you’ll also be studying the neurological, and genetic causes of brain and behavioral disorders such as depression, anxiety and stress. You’ll also get an introduction to biological sciences and other clinical aspects of the field directly related to dental care, such as neuroscience, the management of pain, and the rehabilitation of patients with chronic ailments.
The reason that history is on a list of majors for dentistry is to illustrate that you can come from any background and still apply to dental schools. When you picked your major you may have not had a specific career in mind at all, which is the point of any liberal arts education – to give you as many skills and general knowledge in a specific subject so you can go into anything you want afterward, such as dentistry or history, but at a graduate, or professional level. If you happen to take history without any particular career plans, it will still benefit you, if you pursue dentistry afterward.
A history major imparts important research, and investigative skills, along with helping you develop analytical, argumentative, and written, and verbal communication skills, all of which are necessary to have when you take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The content of a history degree is also helpful in having a more nuanced view of societies and cultures, which are indispensable things to have if you will be treating a large, diverse population.
8. Health or Biomedical Sciences
A degree in health or biomedical sciences is a good major for dentistry or any healthcare related field. It is also good preparation for becoming a researcher or a scientist in health, medicine or any related scientific discipline. Health sciences is also interdisciplinary, and one of the main highlights of this type of degree is that it combines several “sciences”, including life sciences, and social sciences, so you have a deeper understanding of all the factors contribute to health and illness.
9. Public Health
Learning about the social and economic conditions that affect the health of large populations is the basis of public health as a discipline, and it's also important to becoming a dentist, doctor, or a public health professional. But there is also a clinical side to public health, which is what makes it such an ideal major for dentistry.
You’ll not only explore how structural forces affect the health of millions, but also learn about the history of specific diseases. Getting a basic understanding of how diseases spread, what conditions contribute to the transmission of disease and how it is possible to prevent, contain and eliminate these diseases is also crucial to being a dentist. By the degree is also versatile and it can also include research and investigative work that can be helpful in other endeavors to become a dentist, or not.
An English degree is not necessarily the best major for dentistry, but it is also among the most popular degree for people who haven’t decided on a career yet. Again, it is not uncommon for many people to switch career paths either during their degree or once they graduate, so if you have an English degree and suddenly decide that you want to go to dental school, then you shouldn’t be discouraged.
All dental schools in the US and all make English a prerequisite for a reason; the communication, analytical, and writing skills you learn as an English major, or by taking an English course during undergrad is important to learning how to interact with patients, fellow dentists, faculty and staff. You will also gain experience in how to write effectively, which will be a huge asset once it comes time to write your .
While there is no specific major for dentistry that is better than others, it is also true that taking a science-based major (biology, chemistry, microbiology) will help meet the prerequisites that most dental schools in the US and Canada require. Meeting these prerequisites is often the only requirement some schools have, academically, as many of the and Canada do not even require you have a full bachelor’s degree.
- Biology and any related field such as microbiology, general biology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, etc.
- Chemistry (general and inorganic) and any of its related fields such as general chemistry, physical chemistry and quantitative analysis
- Physics and related fields such as quantum physics, thermodynamics, advanced mechanics
- English or any “writing-intensive” course in humanities, arts, social sciences, behavioral sciences
These are the courses that are required by nearly all dental schools, but the exact credit hours, length of program, and sequence of your courses varies, so you should look at the exact requirements of the programs you’re interested in to make sure you meet them before submitting your . But if you choose a science major as your major for dentistry, you’ll end up meeting all these requirements for dental schools so you won’t have to worry about the specific credit requirements.
But that is another reason why all schools recommend that you finish a full degree and why it is a good idea to complete a degree. The structure and credit requirements of all liberal arts degrees means you are required to take natural science courses to complete the degree requirements. So even if you are taking a bachelor of arts degree in English or History, you will still be introduced to science subjects and vice-versa if you are taking a bachelor of science degree.
Should You Apply with 90-Credits?
The 90-credit admission option of many dental schools was designed to make it easier for non-traditional students, or students from underrepresented and disadvantaged minorities to meet the standards of even the . While it is rare, many dental students decide to become dentists at different times in their lives. The most traditional type of student is a recent university graduate, but dental schools in the US and Canada regularly accept mature students, either over 25 or over 30, sometimes even older.
These students may have a bachelor’s degree in another subject, but have decided they want to pursue dentistry after graduating or while working in another field, which will make for a good story when interviewers ask them, “” While their bachelor’s degree, whatever their major, will be accepted by any dental school, they also have to have the requisite knowledge in the sciences (biology, chemistry and physics) to apply, which can be achieved in different ways.
Applying to Dental School as a Mature or Non-Traditional Student
If you’re a mature or non-traditional applicant, you should first review the exact credit requirements for the school you want to get into, and then choose the plan that works best for you to meet them. For example, if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, and you have the time and resources, you should get one, in any of the majors listed here or another subject.
Again, the number of courses, whether the school accepts online or only in-person instruction, and the grade format (pass/fail or numerical grades) also depends on the school you’re applying to, so you should check with it first to find out what would be the best path for you to take. But one requirement of undergraduate post-bacc programs is that you have a bachelor’s degree, but not always.
You may be able to get into some post-bacc programs with only two years, or 30 or 60 credits (depending on the program) of a bachelor’s degree, but they are rare. So, this is yet another reason to complete your bachelor’s degree, in whichever subject you want. A bachelor’s degree opens doors that are hard to open without one.
These majors for dentistry are not the only options you can take. They are some of the best options if you want to prepare for a career in dentistry and you’re certain that you want to become a dentist, but many people have gotten into dental school with a bachelor’s degree in subjects as diverse as political science, economics, and drama. The important thing is to have the bachelor’s degree, and then you can add other courses and electives to make sure you meet a dental school’s prerequisites.
1. What is the best major for dentistry?
A major in the sciences, biomedical sciences, or dental hygiene are the best preparation for the academic demands of dental school. But any will also tell you that you can also apply with a major in history, sociology or philosophy, so long as you have completed the prerequisites in other subjects, and have the ability to apply this knowledge in a preclinical and clinical setting.
2. Do I need a bachelor’s degree to get into dental school?
You do not need a bachelor’s degree, but it is strongly recommended. Some programs require you only complete 90 credits of a bachelor’s degree, while others either recommend or require that you finish a bachelor’s degree regardless of the subject.
3. Do dental schools require a specific major for dentistry?
No. There are no dental schools that require a specific subject. They only require you have completed the degree or meet the academic prerequisites.
4. What else do I need to get into dental school?
Every dental school has its requirements, but, generally, you have to have an above average GPA, good DAT scores, two or three , entrance essays, CASPer or scores (program-dependent). You will also have to do a either a traditional, one-on-one or panel interview or .
5. What major for dentistry should I choose?
You should choose a major for dentistry that best suits your personal interests and curiosity. If you are absolutely certain you want to be a dentist before you apply to colleges or universities, you should go with the majors for dentistry that will best prepare you academically for dental school. But you can also take a major in a non-science field, a STEM subject or even business, and apply to dental school, so long as you make sure you meet the other prerequisites of your program.
6. Which major for dentistry is the hardest?
Every major for dentistry is challenging in its own way, but a lot depends on the type of student you are and where your natural abilities lie. If you’ve always been comfortable with math and sciences, then taking a major in biology or chemistry is not as difficult as a major in the arts, or humanities. None of the above majors for dentistry are easy, and you have to be conscious that your grades in these courses will matter a lot if you want to apply to dental school.
7. What GPA should I have to get into dental school?
Some dental schools have a minimum GPA requirement, which can range from 2.7 to 3.0. But, in general, to be the most competitive candidate, you should aim to get your GPA to 3.5 or higher, if possible. Your GPA isn’t the only thing dental schools look at, but it helps them decide whether your application merits serious review.
8. What are dental school prerequisites?
Every dental school has a different combination of prerequisites. The number of prerequisites is also different for every school, but, generally, dental school prerequisites cover biology, physics, chemistry (organic and inorganic), and English. They’ll also recommend having courses in microbiology, biochemistry, human anatomy, and genetics, to name a few.