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Is Dental School Hard? What You Need to Know

There are 68 dental schools in the US currently. These schools are considered one of the most challenging due to the nature of their courses and other factors. Even with that, they’ve seen an increase in enrolment since 2019.

Whether dental schools are burdensome remains a popular question among aspiring students. There are many factors to consider before concluding if dental school is hard. Knowing the difficulty level of the school will aid your preparation and make things easier for you.

In this article, you’ll get to know everything about going to dental school. You’ll get insights into the difficulty level and tips to make your learning experience more effortless if you find yourself in one.

How to Get Admission into a Dental School

You can only know what a dental school feels like when you get admitted. Getting admitted into one is challenging, considering the processes and acceptance rate. Their acceptance rate in the US is less than 10%.

What are the requirements for getting admission into a dental school?

1.    Get a Bachelor’s Degree

Most dental schools will require a Bachelor’s degree for you to stand any chance of becoming a student. You also need to take courses relevant to dentistry while pursuing your degree.

Most dental schools will require you to have eight credit hours in Physics, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biology. It’s imperative to put effort into graduating with exceptional scores to give you better admission chances.

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2.    Job Shadow other Dentists

Job shadowing other dentists is another requirement for admission into a dental school. Most schools require you to have at least 100 hours of job shadowing experience. Alternatively, you can enter a dental school preparatory or monitoring program.

3.    Have Etra-Curricular Activities

Another essential aspect of getting into a dental school is having relevant extra-curricular activities like joining a health or dentist club. This move will show the school that you have more to offer aside from academics. Joining the Student National Dental Association will also give you an advantage in your admission process.

4.    Take the DAT Test

Passing the Dental Admission Test is also essential for getting admission. A DAT score of 19 can be enough to enter most dental schools. Scoring more than 19 in the DAT exam will give you better chances.

It’s imperative to understand key components of the exams, like the timing, total number of questions, and difficulty level, before sitting for it. Lastly, adequate preparation is key to scoring admissible grades.

5.    Prepare an Application

The next step is to prepare a worthy application. Dental schools may have different application procedures and requirements. Ensure that you understand these requirements and satisfy them. The school will only give you admission if you meet these conditions.

Another essential aspect is conducting adequate research on the type of dental school you want to attend. Some crucial factors to consider when choosing schools include the location, cost, acceptance rate, and of course, the quality of education.

6.    Attend the School Interview

Dental schools may call you for an interview after receiving your application. Most times, the interview is a test of your personality and communication skills, two powerful attributes you need to succeed as a dentist. Your performance at the interview can make or mar your admission. The school will give you the results of the admission process shortly after the questioning.

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Is Dental School Hard?

Dentistry is a branch of medicine, and medical courses are one of the most difficult to study. Therefore, it’s understandable that learning at a dental school will be hard. It takes four years to complete dental school, which is an addition to the four years at the university.

All in all, you’ll spend around eight years trying to become a fully-fledged dentist. Not only is the time frame lengthy, but you’ll also be doing it under intensive work because you aspire to become qualified in one of the most important professions.

Dental education illustratedPin

The first year is usually the most challenging because you’re new and yet to be conversant with the school’s schedule. You will be doing many anatomy and practicals as much as you’re doing the theoretical aspects. Expect to spend up to 40 hours per week in class during your first year.

Years two and three can be better or worse than the first, depending on your approach. You’ll find it easier if you’ve built a good study schedule and understand how the institution works. Expect an arduous year two if you are yet to blend into the strenuous academic activities at the school.

You’ll start practicing as a dentist in a clinic under supervision in year three. Part of the challenges of the third year also includes doing lab work after your clinical period.

The last year is about graduating so you can become a qualified dentist. As you might’ve guessed, you’ll write national boards and state licensure exams. Once you triumph in these exams, you’re on your way to becoming a practicing dentist.

Is Attending a Dental School Worth It?

Aside from the academic and psychological difficulties of attending a dental school, it’s imperative to note that your student loans will be piling up. Enduring dental school challenges can only be worthwhile if there’s goodness after graduation. At this stage, you’re probably asking, is attending a dental school worth it?

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Of course, the best method to determine if attending a dental school is worthwhile is to evaluate the amount dentists earn.

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Dentistry is one of the highest-earning professions in the US. The average salary for a dentist in 2022 is $209,453. For comparison, the average mean wage of all occupations in the US is around $70,000.

The enrollment percentage for graduating dental students is high. Since 2020, more than 80 percent of students who graduate from dental schools get employed in a dental-related job five months after graduating. While it can be rough at your dental school, you might find solace in the grass being greener after graduation.

What is the Acceptance Rate of Dental Schools?

An acceptance rate determines the difficulty of getting into a particular institution. Schools with the highest acceptance rates are the easiest to enter, while those with the lowest are the hardest to join.

The University of Mississippi dental school is the easiest to enter, with an acceptance rate of around 20%. Havard University dental school is the hardest, with less than a 5% acceptance rate.

Other dental schools have similar acceptance rates. It’s imperative to note that the best of them are usually the hardest to enter. Irrespective of the acceptance level, having good academic records and a decent DAT score will increase your chances of getting admission.

Which is Harder Between Dental and Medical School?

A decent way to weigh the difficulty level of dental schools is to compare them with medical schools. There are over 150 medical schools in the US, almost 100% more than dental schools at 67. Also, there are more students in medical schools, making it harder to get into them.

Studying in a medical school is equally as hard as a dental school. It takes around ten years to finish your studies at the school (including residency and fellowship). Academic activities are spread over those ten years. Meanwhile, you’ll have to do them together in your four years at a dental school.

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Typically, you’ll handle around 60 to 80 distinct courses at a dental school compared to 15-20 at a medical school. Medical school courses focus on anatomy, human structure, function, and pathophysiology. At dental schools, the courses are based strictly on the dentition.

What are the Average School Fees for Dental Schools?

The cost of attending different dental schools varies depending on some factors. All dental schools will require you to pay tuition fees unless you’re on a scholarship. It’s imperative to note that additional costs like books, supplies, and instruments exist.

Highly ranked dental schools will most likely charge more. Some schools charge higher for out-of-state students than they do for in-state students. International students might have to pay the highest tuition fees.

Summarily, most dental schools charge around $50,000-$120,000 annually in tuition fees. During your 4-year stay at the institution, expect to spend $150,000-$400,000 in tuition fees. It’s imperative to conduct proper finding so you can find a school that fits your budget.

Is DAT Test Hard?

DAT tests are a 4.5-hour-long mandatory test you need to take before entering dental school. Examiners will test you in the Survey of National Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative reasoning.

Each correct answer will count as one point toward your raw grade, which they’ll use to determine your scaled score. The scaled score is what the school will use to gauge your admission.

Scaled scores are from 1-30, with most dental schools requiring at least 19 for you to get admitted. A school like the Havard School of Dental Medicine will barely consider your admission if you don’t score at least 23.8.

The key to getting a high grade is to enroll in preparatory courses. Summarily, DAT is harder than most other entrance examinations out there. It’s best to start studying for the exam 8-12 weeks before it. You should pay extra attention to your Biology as it’s usually the hardest for most students during the exam.

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How to Succeed at a Dental School?

Mental preparation is one of the first things to do before you enter school. Dental school is hard, but you’ll find it easy if you do the right things at the right time. With the right mindset, you’ll be able to tweak the harsh experiences in your favor.

Have a good study strategy and balance schooling and personal life effectively. Ensure that you socialize with new and existing students to get insights that could help you navigate the school. Indulging in extra-curricular activities and joining voluntary organizations can also help.


Thousands of students graduate from dental school annually. If they can, you can too. The key is understanding what’s required to navigate the turbulences you may experience. Identify the most difficult periods, put in more effort, and everything will be under control.

Having good social relationships with your peers and seniors can help in more ways than you imagine. Understand the admission process, ace your DAT test, work hard, and the sky will be your starting point. Conducting adequate research before settling for a dental school can also make things easier for you.

About Martin Vernon

A lifelong learner, educator, and advocate for education as a means for individual and social change. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great day!

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