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Dentist (current students or graduates)

What do dentists do? 

Dentists are medical professionals who diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, jaws, and gums. They perform preventive and cosmetic procedures, remove tooth decay, fill cavities, and fit crowns and dental implants.  Advanced dental specialties include periodontics (treatment of severe gum disease), orthodontics (realignment of teeth), endodontics (surgical treatment of root canals), prosthodontics (design of tooth replacements) and oral and maxillofacial surgery (tooth extraction, surgeries of the jaw and mouth).  Most dentists work in stand-alone clinics, although oral surgeons may also be associated with hospitals.

What training is required?

Dentists complete a four-year DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) degree program which includes both didactic (coursework) and clinical training.  Accredited programs can be found here. Graduates can choose residency programs to obtain more training or to specialize before joining or setting up a practice.

How do I best prepare for admission to a program?

Coursework: All of the courses required for entrance to a DDS program are part of the Genetics curriculum so every graduate with a 3.0 GPA meets the minimum requirements for admission.  Courses to consider for advanced science electives include Microbiology 310, Biology 335, Biology 350, and Biology 423 among others.  Additional coursework in Psychology, Microbiology, and Medical Terminology may be useful.  Because many dentists work in their own clinics (small businesses) we also recommend a General Business minor (15 credits including coursework in Accounting, Management and Marketing).

While you only need to have earned 90 hours of undergraduate credits before admission (with no degree) we hope you will complete the Genetics degree before entrance.  It is possible to earn a degree in Biology by transferring back courses from dental school to fill advanced science coursework if you have completed all the general education requirements prior to entrance, but it is not as likely that you can complete a Genetics degree.

You will need to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) before applying to dental programs.  The Natural Sciences portion of this test includes questions from Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry.  These are topics covered in the Life Sciences core courses (211, 212, 313, 314, and 315) plus developmental biology (Biology 423) and in your four required Chemistry classes. Biochemistry is not currently included but could be added in the future. You can generally view the mean DAT scores on admissions websites of dental schools.

GPA: You should attempt to achieve a cumulative GPA equal to or exceeding the mean GPA of successful applicants to the medical schools you are considering.  These are generally available on the schools’ websites. The mean GPA’s are in the 3.7 range which is much higher than the minimum 3.0 for eligibility.

Other Recommendations:  Research can develop organizational, problem-solving, analytical, and communication skills and a close relationship with mentors who can then provide meaningful letters of recommendation.  Teaching experience (as a tutor, undergraduate TA or LA, peer mentor, or SI leader) will be valuable in developing communication skills and learning how to interact with a variety of individuals. You should also plan to job-shadow one or more dentists or obtain work in a dental clinic.  Consider joining the Pre-Dental Club and meeting with the pre-health advisors in the LAS College office (102 Catt Hall). They will have the latest updates on relevant opportunities and admission requirements.


Valeria Escamilla

Education:  BS, Genetics, ISU, 2016; DDS student at the University of Iowa

My undergrad experiences provided me with a strong science background that fulfilled all the prerequisites needed to apply for Dental School at the University of Iowa. After graduating from Iowa State, I knew I wanted to continue my education in the medical field. I approached a dental office looking for the opportunity to acquire patient care hours for medical graduate and professional programs. They gave me the opportunity to work as a Dental Assistant and It was then when I discovered my true passion in the field of Dentistry. 




Jennifer Fritz

Education: BS, Genetics, ISU, 2002; DDS, University of Iowa, 2006; residency in prosthodontics, University of Iowa, 2006-2009

Current Position: Prosthodontist with Quad City Prosthodontic Specialists, Bettendorf, Iowa

Dr. Jennifer Fritz

She is currently the president-elect of the Alumni Board of the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. She is also past president of the Iowa Chapter of the American College of Prosthodontists, past president of the Davenport District Dental Society, and past president of the Scott County Dental Society; and is also an adjunct clinical instructor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry