Should I Major In Dentistry?

"I am an undergraduate student right now, currently enrolled in my third year as a biology major. I’ve decided I think I am interested in dentistry. Did I follow the right educational path though to proceed? How do I get into dental school? Should I even try, or was I supposed to have majored in dentistry already? I also don’t really know yet if dentistry is for me. The money sounds appealing, and the work sounds interesting enough, but it’s not like any of my courses were about teeth, so I don’t really know. What do you think I should do?"

asked by Anita from St. Louis, MO

No one else can really tell you whether or not you ought to major in dentistry. It is ultimately a personal choice. As far as your current educational path, I would say you are currently on the right track if that is your professional goal. No, you do not major in dentistry as an undergraduate. It’s like medical school that way. “Pre-med” is just a name for whatever you decide to major in before medical school. Likewise, you are currently enrolled in “pre-dentistry.”

There are numerous different programs that applicants may choose to pursue prior to applying for dental school. These include biology, psychology, recreation, business, engineering, physics, social sciences, various health preparation programs (including dental ones), and even no major at all (in these situations, work experience is paramount).

Over half of all applicants who apply for dental school started out with a biology degree, so that puts you in the majority. They also account for almost two-thirds of enrollees. So having a biology degree will definitely put you at an advantage. That means that feasibly, you are off to a perfect start.

How do you figure out whether or not dentistry is a good match for you? I recommend that you get involved in health organizations at your university, and also call up dental clinics in your area and ask if there are volunteering opportunities or if you can shadow dentists. This gives you a chance to observe dental work firsthand and even participate a bit. You also will have a chance to talk to dentists and find out what they like and do not like about their work.

You also probably will want to work on preparing yourself to face the admissions board at the dental school you are applying at. Your education is a major consideration, but it isn’t the only one.

The admission board members will also consider any employment experience you have had as well as research experience. Since you are at university, you may very well find opportunities to get involved in research projects. Look for courses which involve conducting research and try to enroll in one or two in your senior year.

Any dentistry-related experience can help, so the volunteering or shadowing will not only help you decide whether dentistry is of interest to you, but it will also help you to impress the admissions boards.

Career Spotlight: Dentist

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