What is Dentistry?

Dentistry is a healing arts and sciences devoted to maintaining oral health. Dentists diagnose and treat problems with a patient’s teeth, gums, and other parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.  The realization that oral care can have a serious impact on systemic health drives the expansion of new professional opportunities each year. Additional training in dentistry beyond a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) allows specialization in fields such as Endodontics, Periodontics, Orthodontics, and many more.

Dentists typically do the following:

  • Use the latest techniques and equipment to examine the head and neck and oral cavity to identify and diagnose oral conditions that may manifest into systemic disease and determine the oral health of the patient.
  • Use the latest radiographic, computer-generated imaging, and other specialized diagnostic techniques to identify diseases of the teeth, supporting bone and gingival tissues, and other tissues in the oral cavity and head and neck.
  • Restore and replace teeth damaged by decay, lost from trauma or disease, with newly developed dental materials, implants, and crown and bridge techniques.
  • Perform corrective surgery on gums and supporting bones to treat gum disease. Correct mal-positioned teeth to improve chewing, speech, digestion of food and appearance.
  • Extract teeth when necessary using the most up-to-date anesthetic techniques.
  • Eliminate pain arising from oral diseases, conditions and trauma, making use of prescriptive medicines to reduce pain and discomfort.
  • Evaluate the overall health of their patients including taking and evaluating comprehensive medical histories.
  • Provide instruction and advice on oral health care and preventive measures to maintain healthy oral tissues and prevent oral disease.
  • Oversee the administration and business of private practice and frequently employ and supervise a large number of staff and allied dental personnel to help treat their family of patients. 

Explore these resources and organizations about dentistry:

Source: ADEA: ExploreHealthCareers. 7 May 2013. American Dental Education Association. 17 May 2013 <>

Source: United States Department of Labor: Occupational Outlook Handbook.  29 March 2012. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 17 May 2013 <>.


  • Individual dental schools have their own, unique, course requirements for competitive applicants. It is the applicant's duty to check the school's requirements and preferences. 
  • Students should check with the website and admissions office of schools where they may apply to progress smoothly from their undergraduate experience to medical school. 
  • Please see a PHMO advisor to create an academic plan that meets your timeline and goals.
  • Please check with the schools you plan to apply to regarding their policy on AP Credits. Some schools may or may not accept AP Credit.  If they do accept credits, an additional upper level course with a lab may be required.

Below are the most common pre-dental pre-requisites; remember that this list is of the CORE classes, and some schools may require or recommend additional courses. 

  • Biology 141* and 142 with labs 
  • Chemistry 141 and 142 with labs
  • Chemistry 221 and 222 with labs 
  • Physics 141 and 142 with labs 
  • Biochemistry (Biol 301 or Chem 301)
  • QTM 100 or Math 107
  • 6-8 semester hours of college English/writing (CWR classes in the English language can fulfill this requirement)
  • Some exposure to Psychology, Sociology, and/or Anthropology 

*If you use AP credit for Biol 141, you must still take the Biol 141 Lab. We recommend taking Biol 240 along with Biol 141 Lab if you plan on using AP credit to replace Biol 141.  Please discuss with a pre-health advisor if you have any questions.

  • Dexterity is a quality that is important for dentists. Participating in activities that develop dexterity would be beneficial. For example, enrolling in a sculpture course (at Emory or other institution) can improve dexterity.

Application Process

Admissions Exam: The admissions exam for Dental School is the Dental Admission Test (DAT).

Application Service:  The American Dental Education Association (ADEA) has a centralized application service, the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (ADEA AADSAS).Texas public schools use a different application service, Texas Medical and Dental School Application Service (TMDSAS)

Application timeline/deadline: ADEA AADSAS submission opens in early June each year. TMDSAS submission opens in May. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, so we recommend applying as early in the cycle as possible; be sure to review all important dates on the application services' websites and discuss your timeline with your pre-health advisor.  

Letters of Recommendation:  Dental schools typically require a minimum of 3 letters of recommendation. You should verify specific recommendation requirements with each school. Emory’s Career Center offers a Credentials File to collect letters of recommendation that will be sent to the appropriate professional schools.  The PHMO offers a Composite Letter for  students who have completed the Composite Letter application requirements by their given deadlines.  

Applicant Preparation:  The PHMO offers support for pre-health students to prepare their application, personal statement, and interviewing skills. Workshops are offered at certain points throughout the year, so pay attention to announcements in the PreHealth Newsletter (register here) or check the Upcoming PreHealth Events frequently. Start early to ensure you have ample time to prepare and practice.

Personal Statement: The PHMO offers personal statement workshops on particular dates during the semester. Check the PHMO newsletter for upcoming events. Once you complete a draft of your personal statement, you may submit your draft to the Career Center Document Critique Service for feedback.