While the Health Profession Program Pre-Health Advisors work with Pre-Dental students in all the same ways they work with students interested in the MD path, Dartmouth is extremely fortunate to have a wonderful ancillary Advisor, Dr. Tanner Wallace. If you are curious about exploring dentistry, feel free to contact him directly!

Why Be a Dentist?

Dentists typically do the following:

  • Restore oral health and transform the lives of your patients: By providing preventative care, dental restorative procedures, eliminating pain, or correcting dento-facial aesthetics, dentists can experience the satisfaction, privilege, and joy of positively transforming a patient's life by restoring oral health.
  • Commonly own their own business: Often, dentists will establish their own business right after dental school. This provides them with independence and allows them to set their own business and career goals.
  • Have ten specialty options: While 80% of dental school graduates go into private practice in general dentistry, the profession offers a wide range of clinical, research, and academic opportunities to both new graduates and dentists at any stage of their careers.
  • Maintain a flexible lifestyle: Because there are several different career and practice options in dentistry, practitioners can choose what kind of lifestyle they want to lead and often what hours/days they want work.
  • Exercise creativity in their daily work: Dentistry is often referred to as an art. It requires mastery and technique unique to the profession. Dentistry is largely based on maintaining proper oral health but is also an aesthetically focused practice. A large part of dentistry involves restoring teeth and making a smile beautiful, one that the patient is happy to show to others!
  • Shape the future of oral healthcare: In addition to clinical practice, dentists can contribute significantly to the future of oral health care by engaging in dental education and research. Dental educators can shape the dental school curriculum and the professional role of dentists by establishing themselves as faculty members in dental education. As dental researchers, dentists use the most advanced techniques and technologies and apply cutting-edge scientific findings to move the profession forward by discovering new oral health phenomenon or seeking a resolution to a myriad of oral health issues.
  • Work within a team: Although dentists are often portrayed as "lone practitioners," in actuality, dentistry is a team-oriented profession. Whether it is the dental team (dental hygienist, assistant, and lab technician) working together with the patient to ensure the restoration and maintenance of oral health, or the dentist's role on an interprofessional team, working with other health professionals to improve overall health, the dentist receives much satisfaction as a primary team player.
  • Above information found on the ADEA website.


Additionally, Dentists exhibit the following personality traits:


  • Comfortable with close personal interaction: A lot of a dentist's time is spent with their face and hands extremely close to patients' faces. Successful dentists are comfortable with being very close to other people, even if sometimes patients have bad breath.
  • East to talk to: Successful dentists try to learn about patients on a more personal level before beginning treatment to make patients feel more comfortable. This puts patients at ease and makes them feel like the dentist truly cares about them as whole healthy people, not just about their mouths.
  • Trustworthy: Since dentists work with sharp metal objects in the mouth, a very sensitive area of the body; therefore, they must be trustworthy. Patients need to trust that their dentist will try their best not to hurt them and will take all precautions necessary to make their experience pain free.
  • Detail-Oriented: The mouth is an extremely small space to work in, so dentists must be detail-oriented. The smallest misalignment of something in the mouth can wreak havoc on a patient's bite and tooth health.
  • Enjoys procedure based work:
  • Artistic/Enjoys working with their hands: Dentistry is largely based on maintaining proper oral health but is also an aesthetically focused practice. Dentists use their creativity and technical skills to restore teeth and make a beautiful smile, one that the patient is confident to show to others.
  • Leadership: Dentists may own or work as practitioners within a practice, so they are often natural leaders. They must not only lead a team of dental hygienists, technicians, and assistants but also manage other employees, such as the receptionist while making high-level business decisions for the practice.
  • Excited about dentistry: Successful dentists enjoy the work they do every day and are fascinated by the mouth and all the connections it has to the rest of the body.
  • Passion for service: Dentists often participate in community service. Many dentists enjoy helping those with no access to care receive treatments for painful or unattractive parts of their mouths.
  • Caring/Compassionate: Because dentists work in a very small and sensitive space of the body, a good dentist communicates with the patient during every step of a procedure, making sure they are okay and not in too much pain. Good dentists go to great lengths to make their patients comfortable, relaxed, and pain-free.
  • Good communication: A successful dentist has a keen ability to distill complex procedures and processes into simple language so that the patient can understand exactly what is going on in his or her mouth and any procedures that the dentist suggests.
  • Above information found on the ADEA website.


Click on THIS LINK for information on what a career in dentistry can offer you, and click HERE for testimonials from practicing dentists.


What a Career in Dentistry Demands:

  • Good Judgment
  • Organization
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Professionalism
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Networking Skills
  • Manual Dexterity
  • Artistic Eye
  • Business Sense
  • Maintain Continuing Education Requirements
  • See more information HERE


Preparing for Dental School


ADEA 4-Year Undergrad Timeline to Apply to Dental School 
ADA Pre-Dental Timeline 

College Major: Applicants with a well-rounded education, a variety of interests, and personal experiences are ideal candidates for Dental School. Therefore, it is important to choose a major where you can demonstrate strong academic performance, while also focusing on developing a strong background in the sciences. It is not uncommon to see majors in science, business, engineering, and the fine arts applying successfully to dental school.


  • Two-quarters of biology with lab, (Cell Biology recommended)
  • Two-quarters of general chemistry with lab
  • Two-quarters of organic chemistry with lab
  • Two-quarters of physics with lab.
  • Other Prerequisites that vary by school:
    - Microbiology (17 of 67 schools require)
    - Anatomy (13 of 67 schools require)
    - Physiology: (11 of 67 schools require

Some dental schools require additional courses, such as English composition, and additional upper-level biology courses, such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and biochemistry. Some dental schools will substitute one semester of biochemistry for the second semester of organic chemistry. Many schools strongly encourage applicants to take courses in the arts and social sciences. Courses in business, fine arts, and other subjects that develop manual dexterity, foster creative impulse, and business interest are also recommended.

Beyond academics, it is important that you develop your skills and experience in the following areas:

For more information about preparing for dental school, see...

*Check out: DAT Study Tips from Ryan Lisann '15

For information on how to apply to Dental School, please click HERE.

Dental Education

Possible Degrees: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and/or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD)

Years of Study: 4 years for general dentistry. Additional training requires a 2- to 4-year residency program related to a specialty.

Specialties: Dental public health specialists, endodontists, oral and maxillofacial radiologists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, oral pathologists, orthodontists, pediatric dentists, periodontists, prosthodontists.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

More information