Pre-Dental | Pre-Professional Health Fields | TJC

Pre-Professional Health Fields


The decision to go to dental school is a very important one and requires a good deal of thought and research on the student’s part. Attending a professional school is neither easy nor cheap, so students should take their preparation seriously. TJC offers students the necessary coursework they need and can prepare them for the process of dental school admission.

Becoming a Dentist

A dentist has earned a degree as either a doctor of dental surgery (D.D.S.) or a doctor of dental medicine (D.D.M.). Dentists examine and treat diseases, injuries and malformation of teeth, gums and mouth. They can enhance the appearance of their patients through dental techniques such as braces, dentures or dental surgery.  Ninety percent of dentists are general practitioners and are usually self-employed. They supervise the work of the dental health care team in their offices and have final responsibility for all dental services being provided.

Most all individuals complete a four-year bachelor's degree before entering dental school, usually majoring in a scientific field. Biology and chemistry are most common, but any major is acceptable as long as students complete the required courses. After the necessary science courses have been completed, applicants are ready to take the Dental Admission Test (DAT); most students do this around the time of their junior year. Since admission to dental school is highly competitive, with more applicants than there are class positions, interested students should have high grade point averages and high DAT scores. In recent years the average applicant admitted to Texas dental school has had a GPA near 3.6 and an DAT score of 20.

Dental schools are looking for applicants who demonstrate high intellectual ability, have a strong record of academic achievement, communicate well with people, and are compassionate, motivated, and mature with a high degree of personal integrity. Good grades and participation in school organizations and volunteer work demonstrate the ability to manage time and set priorities, traits dental schools look for in applicants.

Students typically graduate from dental school in four years.  Specialization in areas like oral surgery or orthodontics requires additional years of training. After earning a degree from a dental school accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA), a dentist must pass a national board examination, a clinical examination and any specialty examination. Finally, they must be licensed by the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the average annual salary for General Dentists is around $150,000.

Required Coursework

Though specific science and mathematics requirements for each dental school may vary slightly, completion of the required courses below will satisfy minimum admission requirements to all of the Texas dental schools. All science courses should be courses which will satisfy the requirements for a major in one of the basic sciences, not majors in nursing or allied health fields. To be competitive with other students who take more than the required sciences, pre-dent students should plan to do further work in science at a four-year college or university, especially upper-division hours in biology. The following is a list of courses required by the dental schools in Texas. Most of these are available at TJC.

  • BIOL 1406/1407 (Majors Biology I and II)
  • CHEM 1411/1412 (General Chemistry I and II)
  • CHEM 2423/2425 (Organic Chemistry I and II)
  • MATH 1342 (Statistics)
  • PHYS 1401/1402 (College Physics I and II)
  • ENGL 1301/1302 (Composition I and II)
  • Biochemistry at a four-year school
  • Additional 6-9 semester hours of biology for majors at a four-year school (esp. Microbiology)

Please use the links at the bottom of the page for the Texas dental schools to obtain the most current information.  See the section for "Admissions" on each school's website.

Undergraduate Major

There is no such thing as a degree in pre-dent! While obtaining the prerequisite courses for dental school, students are also completing the requirements of their majors. Although many students earn a bachelor’s in biology because they have completed so much of the coursework for that degree, dental schools do not require any one particular major. Instead of asking "What should I major in?" the better question is "What are professional schools looking for in an applicant?" Professional programs seek intelligent, highly motivated, well-rounded and articulate students who can demonstrate academic success in the prerequisite science courses and in their majors. Typically students will have greater success doing something they truly enjoy. Trying to force yourself into a certain academic major that you don’t like will probably result in a low GPA, one that essentially prevents you from being a competitive applicant. The choice of a major should also be made with a sense of opportunity. Rarely do individuals have the opportunity to learn more about the world and the people around them than when they are undergraduates. Students should take advantage of the opportunity to broaden their horizons and their intellect. This might also enhance a student’s uniqueness and diversity to admissions committees.  Another practical question that must be asked is "What would you do if you didn't get into dental school?". This is not an uncommon question in a professional school interview. Typically, the interviewer is seeking insight into your level of maturity to see if you have alternate plans for your life or if you have put all your eggs in one basket. It just makes sense for all students to prepare a "plan B". A college degree is far too difficult and expensive to earn to go unused. So the best major is one you enjoy, one that sharpens your critical thinking skills, one that broadens your perspective and one that may help you have a great career should medicine not be possible.

Dental School Application Schedule

The application process typically begins in the junior year of college with taking the DAT (Dental Admissions Test) , which the applicant schedules to be taken on a day of their choosing at a nearby Prometric Testing Center.  Starting in May and continuing through the summer, candidates submit their application materials, the earlier the better. The application process for Texas dental schools starts online through the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS), which permits students to apply to all the Texas dental schools using a single application. In addition, each school requires a separate supplement to the main application. Candidates considering out-of-state schools will often be required to use the American Associated Dental School Application Service (AADSAS). Candidates may be notified of interviews to one or more of the dental schools as early as August and interviews occur throughout the fall. Successful candidates are notified of acceptance by the dental schools starting in December.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Dental school admission committees will not just look at a student's academic record. (i.e., DAT scores, GPA, courses taken).  They want to see participation in meaningful extra-curricular activities that demonstrate leadership and an orientation toward helping people. Even more important is evidence that an applicant understands the work of a dentist. Working or volunteering in an office or clinic is a vital experience for students to have. Applicants can contact a dentist and get permission to shadow his/her work. Admissions committees are also looking for a degree of professionalism and effective communication skills.  Your resume should demonstrate these non-academic qualities.

Helpful Links

Links to Texas Dental Schools