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Top 10: FAQ's That Readers Want To Know (Dental Applicants)

I am proud of the small cadre of readers that we have developed over time, and we have answered hundreds of questions from potential applicants! It's a great starting point. We love the questions, but I have noticed a large number of common questions. It might be helpful to just post on this, and I hope that our readers go through this post briefly before emailing us to see if their answer is in some way covered.

Top 10 FAQ's From Our Readers:

1. "I have a bad GPA..."
This is a common situation. Many of our readers are unhappy about their performance in their undergraduate studies. If your GPA is above 3.4 (overall) and over 3.3 (science), you don't have to be so concerned about your GPA. For the rest of us, we might want to read on... There isn't truly a proper blanket answer for everyone, as everyone varies in small aspects of their application portfolio. Regardless, here is our best blanket advice for readers that worry about their GPA. Lets start with the GPA trend: If your first year in undergrad was horrible, and you improved over time, dental school admissions committees (AdComs) take this into consideration! Don't worry about it so much, as long as your average has significantly improved, you'll still be considered a great applicant. Otherwise, if it's still not looking good for you, we suggest the following: read our post on What To Do If You Didn't Get Accepted This Year as a starting point. Although, you might not have applied yet, this post can still help you understand what you can do to improve your application. We strongly suggest doing a second bachelors or a relevant masters degree to improve your GPA. A masters degree (especially related to dentistry, such as a program specifically designed for pre-professional health students is the best). Last but not least, you need to do very well on the DAT to make up for a poor GPA. For instance, 26's across the board on the DAT can make up for a sub 3.00 GPA for certain schools! How do you do well on the DAT? Check out How to Ace the DAT.

2. "I have been out of school for years..."
Don't worry about it! Dental schools (and medical schools as well) love non-traditional applicants. The point here is that dental schools like having a varied incoming class, based on many demographics, and having a few older students is a great way of adding to the diversity of the class. Additionally, older students tend to do well in dental school, as they have matured, and are ready to focus on their studies. I am aware of the fact that MOST incoming dental classes usually have a few students in their 3o's, 40's and sometimes even in their 50's! So what's the catch? Just be ready to tell the truth about why you decided to pursue dentistry at the time that you did, and be ready to talk about your experiences in the interim. All in all, this isn't really a deficiency -- it's an asset for applying to dental school!

3. "Should I re-write the DAT?"
It depends on your circumstances, but generally, if you are asking yourself this, the answer is probably yes (if you have time to do so). A better DAT score can significantly improve your chances of admission. So what's a good DAT score? Generally you would want to have better than 20 in all sections. One or two 17's, 18's or 19's or what not won't hurt you that much. The lower your GPA, the better you want your DAT scores! Remember, ONLY YOUR MOST RECENT DAT SCORES are used to calculate chances of admission. So don't be afraid to re-write! Click here for more information on the DAT.

4. "How do I know if dentistry is right for me?"
Or... "how do I know if I should pursue dentistry or medicine?" It's true that if you pursue a career that you won't be happy in, that you might end up being unhappy for the rest of your working life. Some people can learn to be happy regardless, some can't. Dentistry is different. It's a stressful and extremely detail oriented career and it's very difficult to learn to enjoy it if you don't truly have a passion for it. Always keep this in mind. Go ahead and read our post on How to Know if Dentistry is Right For You.

5. "How many reference letters do I or should I have?"
The answer is four. Ideally three from pure-science professors (biology, chemistry, physics, or somewhere in between), and one from a practicing dentist (who is unrelated to you). This is the ideal combination of letters as it is able to meet the admission requirement of most dental schools. Some dental schools may require additional letters from different sources, please keep this in mind.

6. "What should I write in my personal essay?"
I generally don't advise people on this answer. Why? Because it's supposed to be unique! Write what is in your heart! Why do you really want to pursue dentistry? There is no one perfect answer. Just have proper grammar, keep it professional, and don't bring in politics or controversy. Have other people edit it for you. Perhaps take it to an English professor at your undergrad (that's what I did). Keep it simple, and don't use this as an opportunity to rehash what is already on your application. Use it to add information that isn't on your application!

7. "Which dental school is the best for me?"
All dental schools graduate their students with an equivalent DMD/DDS. One dental school does NOT graduate vastly proficient dentists in comparison to another. The point here is that tuition should be one of the things at the top of your list when deciding which school is best to attend. Some students may want to consider the safety of the location of the dental school since you may be traveling home late at night after labs or clinics. Another factor is the availability of patients. Certain dental schools have a hard time providing patients for their students.

8. "When should I write the DAT?"
As early as you can in your undergraduate years! This way, you can have the opportunity to re-write it if you need to. You should still try doing your best on the first shot, as dental schools will be aware if you wrote the DAT 10 times or something. A couple of tries is not a big deal. Just try to do well, and write it early, so you don't delay applying when the time comes.

9. "I am failing dental school... what should I do?"
Contact your student services office. Get mentorship immediately. Most dental schools will try their best to support their students through rough times. Remediation is always a possibility. The sooner you activate the support systems the dental school offers, the better off you will be. Otherwise, sit back and focus on your study efforts and where you are wasting time or procrastinating. The thing is, you're smart enough to pass dental school (or else you wouldn't have obtained admission). Even if you have to repeat a year... you'll make it through. Best of luck!

10. "Can I ask you a question?"
Yes of course you may! Simply forward your question to and we will try our best to get back to you as soon as possible.


  1. Once a person is out of school and finished with everything, like becoming a dentist, then what is the starting salary?

  2. Sofia,
    It really depends on the area in which you practice, whether or not you did any post-doctoral training, and so on and so forth. Generally a general practice dentist straight out of dental school can expect to earn $90,000 to $125,000 per year. Most will earn higher than $100,000 and less than $120,000 their first year. This tends to increase dramatically if the dentist eventually opens their own practice. For further information, please see the ADA's website as they tend to publish salary numbers by survey regularly. I hope this helps!

  3. so, how much shadowing should I do?
    ie, how well do I need a current dentist, and is it critical for them to write a recommendation letter for me?

  4. Fuyu,
    You should shadow a decent number of hours... I would suggest maybe 30 hours or so at least. The more the better! A letter would be highly recommended to demonstrate that you did shadow, and that you do know what you are getting yourself into. I also believe that a lot of dental schools actually require letters from practicing dentists (not including family members). I hope this helps!

  5. Thank you for your response. I am a College Junior and just realized I might want to be a dentist, so I'm starting to contact alums and shadow local doctors, but I'm a bit late in the game.
    So, for shadowing, since I'm starting late, what is the best way to do it? Also, would it matter if its the same doctor or if its intensively over a short period of time, say my coming spring break?
    Thanks again

  6. Fuyu,
    Yeah definitely just do it with one doctor, so he/she is able to testify as to how many hours you did spend there. You can do it however you want, intensively over a short period of time is fine. Whatever works between you and the dentist. There isn't really any requirement surrounding this whole thing, it's just to get yourself a good letter of reference from the dentist, so do whatever works! I hope this helps.

  7. I got 96 in toefl.can I get admission in dds.

  8. is it possible to transfer from 2 years of med school to a dental school starting out as 3rd year dental student?



  10. I am a 36 yr old R.D.H. Will I have a better chance of getting in because I am a R.D.H or not? I have bought Kaplan BB, Review of MCAT hyperlearning book, Crack DAT/PAT. Is this enough material to learn? How do I organize studying? For instance, I have 4-5 hrs a day. Do I do one subject per day or two?

  11. Melanie said...

    I am already a dental asst. I have been working full time and doing night school for my undergrad. I have a while before applying to dental school but I was wondering if current patient recommendation letters could help my admissions in the future?

  12. when is the earliest that i can start my DDS as i will be finishin my BDS in august 2012??? and when can i give my NBDE part 1 accordingly??????
    please help....

  13. Hi,

    I am a Canadian Student who just finished BSc Degree. I am interested in Dentistry as a Career I am applying to Dental schools in Canada but also wanted to increase my chances of getting in by applying to more Dental schools in US. My problem is that I have low GPA & I have also repeated some of my pre-requisities so I need your help in knowing which are US Dental schools that are Canadian Friendly and that accepts students with low GPA. Also I have already written the Canadian DAT but am planning to write the US DAT in December to Increase my scores for DAT. Would any Dental school accept my December scores ? Your help is greatly appreciated your posts are awesome and they are very encouraging as well. Thank you once again for all your time.

  14. If I have been out of school for over 5 years, and am a non-traditional student, how do I go about getting those letters of recommendation from professors? I just don't think any of them are going to remember a student from 5 years ago. What do you suggest?

  15. so if i have a low GPA like 3.0 do i lose the chance of getting into dental school??and what if i finsh my bachelers degree then apply, are they gana look on my graduated GPA also ??


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