Dentistry is a field in which practitioners work to improve people's health and quality of life through preventative and corrective oral health. Dentists work as general dentists in clinical settings or with advanced degrees in orthodontia, pediatric dentistry, or hospital and operative dentistry. Additional career opportunities include researching dental diseases and treatment techniques.
At the University of Iowa, dentistry is a professional degree program that requires applicants to complete at least three years of undergraduate college course work prior to admission. Iowa offers preparatory course work and specialized advising for undergraduate students in any major who plan to apply to dental school.
Requirements for admission to the university will vary depending on your undergraduate major. Review our Areas of Study to see the admission requirements associated with that major, or apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as an open major with a "pre-dentistry" interest.
Applying to the DDS Program
Admission to Iowa's professional DDS Program is competitive. Each year, about 1,000 people apply for 80 spots in the class.
Applicants must first complete a minimum of 90 semester hours of study (three academic years) at an accredited college, including prerequisite course work in biology, chemistry, physics, and biochemistry. Most students complete a bachelor’s degree before enrolling.
As a sophomore or junior (a year before you plan to be enrolled), you'll need to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT) and file an Associated American Dental Schools application. In December, the program begins accepting students for admission to the following fall's incoming class.
Other considerations include your grades, personal essay, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, and a personal interview. Grades are important, but you do not need to be a straight-A student as an undergraduate. The mean college Grade-Point Average for entering dental students at Iowa is about 3.71 (on a 4.00 scale).
During their fourth year, students in the DDS program have international exchange opportunities in Guatemala; India; Nijmegen, Netherlands; and Arhus, Denmark. The college also has an active chapter of the American Student Dental Association, which sponsors speakers, produces the publication Probe, and holds numerous social events.
The College of Dentistry offers several scholarships for DDS students based on academic strength, research interests and experience, community service, leadership qualities, and diversity. One example is the Dental Tuition Scholarship, which ranges from $10,000 to $15,000 a year for up to four years. Scholarships are awarded to entering students and are renewed automatically for the duration of the student’s dental education, providing academic performance is maintained.
The College of Dentistry selects applicants from a wide variety of undergraduate majors, so students planning to first complete a bachelor's degree are encouraged to choose a major that genuinely interests them.
Consulting frequently with your undergraduate academic adviser will help you develop a study plan that will give you a good background for dental school. Your undergraduate course work must include:
- English—the composition, rhetoric, and speech courses required for a bachelor’s degree
- Physics—one year with laboratory work
- Chemistry—two years, including one year of organic chemistry with laboratory work
- Biology—one year with laboratory work
- Biochemistry—one semester
- Electives—courses in business, history, mathematics, philosophy, social sciences, and world languages
If possible, include courses in cell biology, physiology, and vertebrate anatomy.
Upon admission to the DDS program, the first year of study emphasizes the basic sciences—the biological foundation of the dental profession. You'll also take dental technique courses and have patient-care experience in preventive dentistry.
The second-year builds on the basic science courses and involves experiences in more advanced patient procedures. You'll provide restorative and preventive dental care for patients in a clinic.
In the third year, you'll do five-week clinical rotations in each of seven clinical disciplines. These in-depth studies occur in concentrated five-week periods. By the end of the year, you will have developed skills in every area of dentistry.
During the fourth year in the DDS program, you'll use the skills you've developed when you work with patients in the Family Dentistry Clinics. You'll practice in a simulated office setting, providing comprehensive dental care to patients and building management skills. You also might work in one of several programs outside the college, including a mobile dental unit, hospital dentistry, and the Special Care Clinic, where many elderly persons with complex problems and patients with disabilities receive treatment.
See Doctor of Dental Surgery in the UI General Catalog to learn more about the DDS degree, including curriculum and admission requirements.