Dentistry is the only doctoral health profession that deals with the maintenance of health in the mouth and the prevention and treatment of oral disease. In addition to the medical and surgical aspects, dentistry also deals with the restoration of teeth and other tissues of the mouth.
Dentistry is a specialized discipline of medical science but is not a specialty of the practice of medicine. Dentistry is a profession with its own traditions and governance. Dentists must have a basic understanding of human form and function and current medical therapy while having specialized knowledge and skills to provide an effective health service to their patients. In addition to the general practice of dentistry, there are several specialties within the profession: endodontics (root canal), oral surgery, oral pathology, oral radiology, orthodontics (braces), pediatric dentistry, periodontics (gums), prosthodontics (dentures) and public health.
Pre-professional is a category for any student who intends to enter professional school after graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Pre-health is the pre-professional program for students interested in the health professions, including dentistry, medicine, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy and veterinary medicine. Identifying your pre-professional interest will enable your college advisor, your major advisor and your pre-professional advisor to provide you with a wide range of support to realize your goals.
Students interested in careers in dentistry have a variety of undergraduate majors from which to choose as preparation for their chosen profession. The selected undergraduate major should prepare the student for a health care profession. Along with a strong science core, students are encouraged to take course work in the social sciences, humanities, interpersonal communication and business administration.
Although a bachelor’s degree is not required for admission to the College of Dentistry, it is highly recommended. Students pursue an undergraduate major when they start as a freshman and integrate their dentistry prerequisite course work into their specific program. Applicants must have 9 of the 13 prerequisite courses completed and a minimum of 90 credit hours earned at the time their application is submitted.
Admission to the College of Dentistry is based on completion of prerequisite course work, the cumulative grade point average, the score on the Dental Admission Test (DAT), participation in non-academic activities (i.e. volunteering, community service, work history, research, military service or sports) and a personal interview. In addition, applicants are required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of unpaid observation in a general practice dental or specialist office. In the selection of students, preference is given to students who are residents of Ohio. Nonresidents and residents are all considered on a competitive basis.
Admission to the College of Dentistry requires a solid science foundation. As a result, the undergraduate course of study at Ohio State should include the following courses:
- Biology 1113, 1114
- Microbiology 4000
- Anatomy 2300 or 3300 or Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology 2510, 2520
- Chemistry 1210, 1220
- Biochemistry 4511
- Organic Chemistry 2510, 2520
- Physics 1200
- English 1110 and any second-year writing course
- Physiology 3200 or Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology 2510, 2520 (if anatomy and physiology combination course is taken, students must complete both semesters to meet this prerequisite)
For science course, a lab component is required unless the lab is taught as a separate course.
The four-year dental college curriculum is divided into the following four components:
- Basic human health sciences, including anatomy, biochemistry, cell biology, histology, microbiology, pathology and physiology, with emphasis on the oral aspects
- Basic training and education in the mechanical arts of restorative dentistry
- Training in diagnostic and communication skills
- Applications of these basic skills and sciences in providing patient care in dental school and other community clinics
Upon graduation and licensure, dentists are prepared to begin general practice. However, students can also choose to continue their education and pursue a specialty, which requires an additional one to four years of training depending on the specialization.
Students are encouraged early on in their undergraduate years to participate in some type of volunteer and/or paid work experience within a dental setting. These types of experiences can provide insight into the field of dentistry and help to confirm a student's career choice. Since the College of Dentistry relies on letters of recommendation in the application process, volunteer and/or work experience with a practicing professional can provide students with a professional reference that may be needed later.
Students are not required to participate in research for admission to dental school, but it is encouraged. Students interested in research opportunities should contact the assistant dean for student research in the College of Dentistry.
Pre-dentistry students at Ohio State are encouraged to participate in student organizations that engage in community service, advocacy and oral health care instruction, such as the Pre-Dental Club, American Student Dental Association and the Undergraduate Student National Dental Association (USNDA). This involvment enables prospective students to take advantage of a variety of educational activities to help familiarize them with the profession. Involvement in community service activities and social functions also helps students to get to know one another outside the academic setting or during the application process to graduate school or professional school.
About 75 percent of dentists practice general dentistry, primarily in private office settings. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for dental care will continue to increase as the population increases. Many established dentists are seeking associateships with recent dental school graduates to assist them in meeting the growing demand for services. There is also a similar need for dental specialists. In addition to the private office, many dentists also practice in hospitals, nursing homes, military settings and community clinics.
Some dentists elect to pursue primary careers in dental research and education; others elect government service as dental officers in one of the branches of the military or in public health service.
The national expenditure for dental services rises each year based on increased demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, salaries for dentists range from $68,400 to $187,200 per year. Salaries in education and government service are commensurate with the educational qualifications for health professionals.
At Ohio State, pre-dentistry is not a major, but is an officially recognized area of academic interest. Learn more about pre-professional programs at preprofessional.osu.edu.