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Pre Dental Majors

Pre-Dental, much like Pre-Med or Pre-Vet, isn’t a major in and of itself. It’s a track that leads to working in the dental industry, making it a pre-professional route. Dental work, in general, is to provide safe and effective care of people’s teeth and mouths. These specialized professionals are trained to diagnose and treat a variety of oral health issues. Dentistry can be studied at just about every level of education, from certificate to degree to medical doctorate.

All dental programs should be accredited by The Commission on Dental Accreditation, or CODA.

Certificate Level

Becoming a dental assistant requires a 1-year degree program. Dental assistants typically perform work alongside a licensed dentist, otherwise referred to as chairside assisting. They may also be required to greet patients, prepare exam rooms, and perform administrative work.

To become certified, students must pass the Dental Assisting National Board’s (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination.

Associate Level

Typically a 2 to 3 year program, this track can lead to becoming a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists perform teeth cleanings, take x-rays, and administer sealants and fluoride treatments. Depending on the office, they may also take on administrative duties, such as maintaining patient records.

A degree in dental hygiene will include courses on patient/pain management, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, dental anatomy, radiology, pharmacology for dental hygiene, and more. To officially become a Registered Dental Hygienist, graduates from an accredited program must pass the clinical exams administered by the American Dental Association (ADA) Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations.

Careers for students with an Associate’s in Dental Hygiene: Dental Hygienist. The average yearly salary for this career is $72, 910.

Baccalaureate

Degrees in dental work aren’t typically available at the bachelor’s level; instead, they typically lead to a medical doctorate (MD) to become a fully-licensed dentists. To increase their wages or marketability, some dental hygienists will complete a baccalaureate, but it isn’t required.

Pre-dental students will often major in any of the biological and physiological sciences, which can help when taking the American Dental Association’s Dental Admissions Test (DAT) for admittance into an MD program. They provide exposure to laboratory work, biostatistics, microanatomy, genetics, cell biology, social behavior, and more.

If the intention is to continue forward and obtain an MD, students typically must have a minimum of a 3.2 GPA and complete certain prerequisite courses before taking the ADA’s DAT, which include:

  • Biology

  • General chemistry

  • Organic chemistry

  • Physics

  • Anatomy

  • Biochemistry

  • Immunology

  • Physiology

  • Math

  • English Composition

Doctorate Level

Dental school typically takes four years to complete, two in the classroom and two working in clinical settings. Upon graduation, to officially become a practicing dentists, graduates must take and pass the National Board Dental Examination. The NBDE is a two-part test, with both written and oral sections.

Specialization within this field, such as in orthodontics, can add anywhere between 2 to 4 years of school and require a residency, as well as further testing.

Careers for graduates with an MD in Dentistry (who have passed the NBDE): Dentist, Orthodontist, Endodontist, Pediatric Dentist, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Periodontist, Prosthodontist, Oral Pathologist. The average annual salary for those working as a dentist, or any of the specialized fields, is between $125,000 and $235,000. 

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