Dentists perform regular maintenance of teeth and oral care but can also specialize in endodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery-radiology-pathology, orthodontics, periodontics and other specialties. You might combine your degree with a PhD, MBA or MPH. Some dentists set up private practices, others find careers in academic dentistry, dental research, dental public policy, and international health. As a dentist, one has the flexibility to include any or all of these arenas into their career. Dentists can begin to practice as soon as they receive their license, may set up flexible hours, and combine the independence of their own practice with providing important health care. It is a well-regarded and fulfilling health career.


Required courses usually include:

  • 2 semesters of biology with lab
  • 2 semesters of inorganic chemistry with lab
  • 2 semesters of organic chemistry with lab
  • 2 semesters of physics with lab (physics at Duke requires calculus I)
  • 2 semesters of English or English composition

In addition, some schools require or recommend

  • 1 semester of psychology
  • 1 semester of biochemistry
  • 1 semester of statistics
  • Additional courses in biology, microbiology, anatomy/physiology, immunology, etc

Requirements can vary among dental schools so check the dental schools in your home state and any others you might apply to. AP credit may or may not be accepted.


Dental schools will look for knowledge of the dental field, so you should shadow in different specialties (general dentistry, orthodontics, etc.) and locations (general practice, hospitals, community clinics etc). The number of hours recommended for shadowing may range from a minimum of 30 hours to 100 or 200 hours. They will also look for compassion for others, a history of community service or service to others, leadership, and research. Demonstration of activities that develop your manual dexterity will be important. 


The exam is offered most days of the year at various testing centers in the US. It lasts 5 hours and 15 minutes and consists of four parts (natural sciences, perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning).  Scores range from 1 to 30 for each section. There is no biochemistry on the exam. For more information see: Dental Admission Test (DAT) 2023 Candidate Guide

One can either request a Committee Letter, which is one letter written by the Pre-Dental Advisor or request three individual letters from Duke faculty that know you well. You will need to request these letters in the in which you apply.

The application services are ADEA AADSAS and TMDSAS. Application can be submitted around June 1 for AADSAS and on May 1 for TMDSAS. Verification of your transcript will take several weeks. You should apply early in the application cycle. The first decisions may be made on December 1.


Join the Duke Predental Society for information and advising first. As you begin to have advanced questions, you can consult with the Pre-Dental Health Professions Advisor Dr. Martha Ann Keels.