Applying to Dental School: Non-Traditional Paths

The road to dental school isn’t always so straight forward and according to the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) an increasing number of students are entering dental programs later in life perhaps after a career in a different field prior to deciding to pursue dentistry or just after taking a few years to work after undergraduate studies before applying.

A non-traditional path to applying to dental school may seem daunting but rest assured it’s NOT impossible!

Dr. Jonathan Meiers (second from left), professor and chair of the Division of Operative Dentistry, assists second-year dental student John Walsh. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)

Dr. Jonathan Meiers (second from left), professor and chair of the Division of Operative Dentistry, assists second-year dental student John Walsh. (Tina Encarnacion/UConn Health Center Photo)


Required Coursework

Keep in mind the classes all dental schools require you to complete (including corresponding labs)

-two semesters of biology

-two semesters of general chemistry

-two semesters of organic chemistry

-two semesters of physics

The ADEA shares that some schools will let you substitute one semester of organic chemistry for one semester of biochemistry, and many schools are now requiring biochemistry. Some schools have additional requirements, such as writing seminars, calculus or psychology courses.

It is imperative to research schools’ specific requirements to be certain of the correct course required.


Make Your Application Stand Out

-Letters of Recommendation

Your experiences leading up to dental school are unique and it’s important to highlight them in a way to best demonstrate your proven abilities that have prepared you for the dental world. Letters of recommendation from former employer even though not in the dental field can be beneficial if they illustrate qualities that reflect those of the program your are applying to. More on reference letters here.

-Personal Statement

This is your time to shine. Besides the interview this is the only place in your dental school application where you can sell yourself in your own words. Make it clear how and why you are committed to the dental field. Create a comprehensive story of your experiences and coming your decision to pursue dentistry. More on the personal statement here.


The American Student Dental Association (ASDA) held a webinar of a panel of current non-traditional students discussing different roads that led to dental school and it is available below.

A non-traditional path to dental school may be a daunting one but it can be achieved!


Career Spotlight: Pediatric Dentistry!

Hello all pre-dentals. We are bringing in a new segment here on the blog, called Career Spotlight, where we showcase and explore the nine dental specializations, different career settings, positions, and more in the wide world of dentistry.


After your four years of dental school and you are crowned the title of a DDS (doctor of dental surgery) or a DMD (doctor of dental medicine) you can choose to go above and beyond with additional post-graduate training to specialize!

With this specialized training you can hone your skills and knowledge specifically in the area of dentistry you desire.


For our first trick: Pediatric Dentistry!


I thought this would be a good place to start with specializations since it’s still a broad population of patients you will see: children. Even though pediatric dentistry refers to the treatment of the “pediatric population”, this actually covers a wide age range with widely varying needs, including all those between birth through the adolescent years. Check out the intro video from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry below.



  • After dental school graduation, a two-year pediatric dentistry residency program immerses dentists in the world often referred to as the pediatricians of dentistry. These programs feature a wide array of both clinical (i.e. in hospitals) and didactic (i.e. in classrooms) experiences working solely with children. A breakdown of the pediatric dentistry residency programs across the U.S. from the AAPD can be found here.


  • The early years of a child’s life is a critical time for dental development and monitoring. The American Dental Association recommends visiting a pediatric dentist after the first tooth emerges and strongly suggests that an infant’s 1st dental visit should really be no later than their 1st birthday!


  • Developing teeth on tiny patients is a big specialization and it may just be your thing. If you are interested in diving deeper and learning more, explore sites like the ADA’s and


fun fact: pediatric dentistry was formally referred to as pedodontics or paedodontics.


So there you have it; a small beginners look to the specialization of pediatrics!

Stay tuned for more of DAT Cracker’s exploration into the nooks and crannies of the dentistry field!