Most program prerequisites are the same for medical school and dental school. Your DAT scores are extremely important. Having an excellent DAT score can open the doors for acceptance in some of the best dental schools in the country. Grades are very important as well. Shadowing and volunteering are virtually required.
When shadowing, spend the majority of your time with general dentistry since you will receive training in these procedures in dental school. Also, be aware of the business practices of each dentist, how they manage their practice, as well as how they maintain a cheerful dental staff.
Additionally, spend time shadowing all the specialties in the dental field: oral surgery, orthodontics, periodontics, prosthodontics, and pediatric dentistry. This will expose you to the fields in which general dentists refer patients as well as allow you to determine whether you enjoy a specific specialty.
Shadowing assures the admissions committees that you know what dentistry is all about and that you are committed to it.
Volunteering also helps you decide if you enjoy the dental field, opens your eyes to ministry opportunities, and shows others that you want to serve people. When starting to volunteer, try to look for free dental clinics around your community. At these locations, you might get experience assisting dentists in their procedures, learning about dental equipment and sterilization, and meet the dentists that rotate through the clinic. And if you meet one you really like, ask if you can shadow them in their office.
If you are planning to apply to MUSC in South Carolina, think about volunteering during the summer at their annual Dental Access Days event. Each year the SCDA puts on a two-day free dental clinic in a city of South Carolina; the faculty, staff, and students from MUSC, and dentists from the entire state attend. This gives you a great opportunity to rub shoulders with the teachers and admissions faculty from MUSC and looks great on your application to MUSC.
Feel free to supplement your dental volunteering with other types of volunteering. Whether it is volunteering at a children’s hospital or ER, these volunteer hours demonstrate your serving spirit and activity in your community. It can also be beneficial to be familiar and comfortable with a hospital setting, especially if you are interested in Oral Surgery.
It is also important to do well in your undergraduate courses. Each year, dental schools are becoming more and more competitive so your grades are definitely important. A person's GPA is not the most important factor when dental schools look over applicants, but it sure does help. Also, make sure you look at the prerequisite requirements for each dental school you are planning on applying to. Some schools may require a few different classes than others, so be prepared!