The Typical Education Requirements for a Dentist

Portrait of happy dentist at the office with her team and holding a tablet computer and looking at the camera smiling

After you have made the decision to become a dentist, you have a long road to achieving your career dreams. But the path is clear. You simply have to pursue specific educational and training requirements. With a dental degree, you can provide the care patients deserve and enjoy the fulfillment that your work brings.

Special Considerations for a Dental Career

Like other forms of medicine, dentistry is a science, art and business. Whether you decide to become a general practitioner or specialize through advanced training and focus, you need an artist’s eye, detailed nature and the manual dexterity that precise procedures require. You also need to be a great communicator, socially inclined and interested in the field as a whole.

To start on the pathway to becoming a dentist, talk to your guidance counsellor or career consultant at your school. Whether you are in college or still in high school, you need to know about prep courses you need before submitting a dental school application.

Also, consider talking to a dentist you know. Ask them about their career, what they enjoy and its drawbacks. You need a full picture of what being in practice is like, to ensure it is all you want from your daily life. Consider spending time in a dental office, either working as an intern or fulfilling another role. Being in the office helps you see firsthand what a dental career is like and whether it suits your life objectives. A dental professional in your area will likely feel excited about helping you learn about their work.

Before Dental School

Before you can enroll in dental school, you must meet certain pre-dental education course requirements. Most of these are maths and sciences. You do not usually need advanced courses like physics or higher-level biology. But each dental school has its own requirements. So you need to reach out to your preferred educational institutions to ensure you meet their admission requirements before applying.

The easiest way to get the details of the required coursework and learn more information about a particular dental school is to visit their website. Most list their course requirements and other entry parameters.

In Canada, one admission requirement for all of these schools is the Dental Aptitude Test (DAT). You must submit your scores after taking the test administered by the Canadian Dental Association (CDA). The test evaluates your academic qualities, science comprehension, visual perception and manual dexterity. Although all Canadian dental schools require this test and its scores, they only use your results as one indicator of your overall potential.

Remember that the DAT is also only your first step in the dental school application. You still must complete an application form for every school you want to attend. For each school, you must contact them directly and submit their individual forms while meeting their specific requirements. This is a detailed process. It certainly helps to get organized and start preparing for your applications well before your college graduation.

Money and Time Required for a Dental Career

Dental school requires as much of a financial and time commitment as medical school. You must attend your advanced educational institution for four to five years after completing your undergraduate degree. This is why it is so vital to ensure you attend a school you value. Tour several before committing, such as by taking an in-person group tour, visiting the campus on your own or looking for a virtual tour on their website. Learn as much as you can about student life on the campus, too.

Canadian dental schools are increasingly expensive. This means you will likely need student loans. Inquire about each school’s tuition fees and take those into deep consideration before making a decision. Research your options for financial support, too. Consider using personal savings, federal loans, provincial student loans, scholarships and bursaries.


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