Dentistry Overview

dentistDentistry is a profession that combines science and technology with helping people to enhance and maintain their oral health. Dentists are responsible for diagnosing, treating, and helping with the prevention of diseases, injuries and malformations of the teeth and mouth. They improve a patient's appearance by cosmetic and surgical procedures, educating the patient on oral care, teaching and training future dentists, and performing research directed to developing new treatment methods and improving oral health.

Pre-Dentistry Fast Facts  Printable (PDF)

Choosing Dentistry as a Career

Seventy-five percent of individuals who choose to attend dental school either do so during or after college. Only a quarter of graduating dental students indicate that they intended on pursuing a career in dentistry before they actually entered college.

There are many reasons students choose dentistry as a career:

  • Excellent income: the mean annual net income of general dentists in private practice is more than $185,000 and over $315,000 for specialists
  • Satisfying professional career: many dentists enjoy the independence and autonomy of owning their own practice and the flexibility of determining their practice hours (thus allowing more time for personal life)
  • Dentistry is viewed by the public as one of the most trusted and ethical professions in the U.S.
  • Career outlook is good. New dentists are needed in private practice, as teachers and researchers in public health.
  • The dental profession seeks to increase the number of underrepresented. Currently, only 16% of all professionally active U.S. dentists are female, with more women entering dental school than ever. In addition, approximately 7% of all professionally active U.S. dentists are underrepresented minorities.


To date, there are currently 175,000 practicing dentists. Most active dentists (92%) are general practitioners, while others are recognized as specialists in one of nine areas: (1) orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics; (2) oral and maxillofacial surgery; (3) endodontics; (4) periodontics; (5) pediatric dentistry; (6) prosthodontics; (7) oral and maxillofacial pathology; (8) dental public health; (9) oral and maxillofacial radiology.

The majority of dentists work in an office setting either in solo practice or with a team of dentists. After receiving a doctoral degree in dentistry, either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), a dentist generally enters private practice immediately.

As of 2013, there are 65 accredited U.S. dental schools and 10 Canadian dental schools. Several additional dental schools are currently being developed and anticipate accepting students in the 2008 or 2009 entering classes. Ohio has two dental schools: The Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University. 

2012 Entering Class Applicants & Enrollees 

  Total Men Women Unknown Gender Avg. Science DAT Avg. Perceptual DAT 

Avg.  DAT

Avg. Science GPA Avg. Total GPA
Applicants 12,077 51.0% 47.8% 1.2% 18.5 19.3 18.7 3.24 3.36
Enrollees 5,483 52.3% 47.0% 0.7% 19.8 20.1 19.9 3.47 3.55

For more information on dental school admission statistics, please visit the ADEA website.

Relevant Websites

Official Guide to Dental Schools is published annually by the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). This resource includes program descriptions, selection criteria and statistics of admitted students for each dental school. A copy of this resource can be found at most local libraries, but can also be purchased online at

American Student Dental Association:

ASDA news: monthly newspaper for dentists, dental students, and undergraduate pre-dent students

Mouth: quarterly journal for dental students

Getting into Dental School: ASDA's Guide for Predental Students

Guide to Postdoctoral Programs Vol. 1-3

Dental Admission Test:

Dentistry career information: Sponsored by the American Dental Education Association, it provides about all health-related occupations.

Health Professions Admissions Guide: Strategy for Success. National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions