Overview of the Profession

What is the difference between a D.D.S. and a D.M.D.?

A: The simple answer is nothing. Both D.D.S. and D.M.D. mean the same thing—the dentist graduated from an accredited dental school. The D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees. D.D.S. and D.M.D. dentists both receive the same education and both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the American Dental Association (ADA). It’s up to each individual university to determine which degree is awarded.

Learn more about Dentistry:

Admission Statistics

Course Requirements

Visit the American Dental Association (ADA) to see the course requirements at your schools of interest, as they vary slightly for each medical school.

To see which UCLA courses satisfy the most common course requirements, refer to the UCLA Pre-Health Requirements Worksheet, found here.

Meet with an academic advisor at UCLA for advice on course planning for dental school.

Do I have to be a specific major to be able to apply to dentistry school?

A: No. Many students interested in going to dental school are under the impression that they have to major in biology or some branch of science to be accepted to dental school. This is an incorrect assumption. A specific undergraduate major is not required for acceptance to dental school; however, a good foundation in the sciences is required.

Centralized Application System

American Association of Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) is the central application service for dental schools. Part of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), this service is available to all students applying to dental schools participating in the application service. AADSAS simplifies the application process by providing one standardized form, relieving students of the need to complete multiple applications. Additionally, the ADEA has a directory that has the admission requirements and description of the programs at each dental school.

Application Timeline

View the American Dental Education Association’s Timeline to Apply .

Entrance Exam

The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is designed to provide dental education programs with a means to assess program applicants’ potential for success.

View the DAT guide, register for the test, access test preparation resources, and more here.

Timeline to Take the DAT

In the year prior to applying, identify a strategy to prepare for the DAT. Obtain a sample DAT test from the American Dental Association (no charge) and look into other test preparation options.   Register for the DAT with the American Dental Association. The ideal time to take the DAT is during spring quarter of junior year, or immediately after you have completed your organic chemistry courses. If your test scores are not what you would like, you must wait 90 days to re-take the test. The DAT can only be taken up to three times, so plan to score well the first time you take the test.

Letters of Recommendation

In most cases, dental schools require four letters: two from science professors, one from an advisor and one from a dentist.  If a dental school has some flexibility in terns of who can write the letter, other potential sources include clinical mentors, supervisors in extracurricular activities, and research supervisors.  Letters of evaluation are a required portion of the ADEA AADSAS® application. ADEA AADSAS allows you to submit up to four letters. Individual dental schools sometimes ask for additional letters of evaluation separate from the ADEA AADSAS application.

Please note that UCLA does not write committee letters.

AADSAS accepts applicants’ letters of evaluation directly, however, some students choose to use an external letter service instead (such as, but not limited to, Interfolio Dossier).

For additional guidance and UCLA resources for asking for letters of recommendation, visit the Prepare to Apply section of this website.

Personal Statement

General requirements for the Dental School Personal Statement.

For guidance and UCLA resources for writing a personal statement, please visit the Prepare to Apply section of this website.

Helpful External Links (not affiliated with UCLA):

Choosing Schools & Programs

Find a program: https://www.ada.org/en/coda/find-a-program

ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools: https://www.adea.org/officialguide/

Deciding which dental schools to apply to and attend is a complex and highly individualized process. Visit the Prepare to Apply section of this website for considerations that may help you with these decisions.

Gain Experience

Having clinical experience in dentistry is absolutely essential for pre-dental students. Dental schools look for applicants who thoroughly explored the profession. Both volunteer and paid clinical experiences add value to your dental school application. You should choose the experience that affords you the greatest opportunity to observe dental care in action and gain an understanding of the dental profession. Volunteer experiences tend to be better in this regard, but some paid experiences can be valuable. If you are a paid dental assistant (DA), registered dental assistant (RDA), x-ray technician and/or dental hygienist, these experiences are considered very impressive on your application. It is always wise to get involved in clinical experience as early as you decide that you want to be a dentist. It would greatly help if you have gained experience in dentistry in more than one setting. Shadowing dentists in various specialties can help demonstrate that you have explored dentistry thoroughly, but only shadowing specialists is not always a good idea. You want to demonstrate and interest in general dentistry before you delve into experiences with specialists. Below we list some possible avenues through which you can gain clinical experience in dentistry:

  • Volunteering at a Local Dental School Clinic
  • Serving as a Dental Assistant (DA), Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) or obtaining a Dental x-ray License
  • Working at a Free Dental Clinic
  • Dental Interpreter
  • Pre-dental courses and seminars

 Dentistry Related Student Organizations at UCLA:


Dental schools like to see applicants with shadowing experience, as it shows that the student has a solid grasp of what is involved in the practice of dentistry. Shadowing a dentist will give students the opportunity to confirm and demonstrate a desire to pursue dentistry.  See Gain Experience for additional guidance on finding shadowing opportunities.

 Pre-Dental Education:

Find Dental Clinics https://www.freedentalcare.us/

Visit the Gain Experience page of this website for more ideas on how to gain clinical, research, leadership, and/or community service experience that can help you clarify your goals, develop your skills, and demonstrate your commitment to healthcare.

Helpful Websites