15 Best Dental Schools in the U.S. – 2024 (2024)

The general public might think of dentists as those people who love to tell us to floss more, but dentistry is so much more than that. Dentists are highly trained medical professionals who apply their diagnostic, predictive, and surgical skills to a field that’s constantly pursuing improved treatments and technological innovation. To go into general practice, students earn either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) after completing their bachelor’s degree. After that, dentists can apply to residency programs if they wish to specialize in a particular field. Dentists can also choose to focus on oral health research, and many of the best dental schools in the US give students opportunities to pursue research while they complete their degrees.

Considering dental school? We’ve got all the essentials covered for you in the article below. We’ll go over:

  • How Long Does It Take to Get a Dental Degree?
  • What Do I Need to Apply?
  • Career Paths After Graduating
  • What to Consider Before Applying
  • Best Dental Schools in the US

Best Dental Schools in the US – How Long Does It Take to Get a Dental Degree?

On average, it takes 4 years to complete a doctorate in dentistry. During the first two years, students take classes in biology. The second two years focus on hands-on clinical work and patient care. Students can expect to graduate with all the practical skills they need to begin their careers in general dentistry.

Best Dental Schools in the US – What Do I Need to Apply?

Like all medical programs, admission to the best dental schools can be competitive. To apply, you’ll need the following:

  • Undergraduate degree: Dental school applicants most commonly earn majors in biology or chemistry.
  • Good GPA: Aim for a 3.5 or higher when applying to competitive dental schools.
  • Dental Admissions Test (DAT) scores: Competitive scores rank in the top 25%.
  • Job Shadowing: Most require that you shadow DDS or DMD dentists for at least 50-100 hours before applying. More competitive schools require around 300 hours of shadowing 2-3 dentists. You can read about how to make the most of your job shadowing experience here.

After completing the steps above, you’ll follow these steps:

  • Submit your application to the ADEA Associated American Dental Schools Application Service: Instead of applying directly to the university, most US dental schools require you to this service to apply.
  • Submit supplemental materials: Some schools require additional materials, such as a resume and letters of recommendation. Ideally, at least one letter will come from a dentist you job shadowed.
  • Participate in interviews: Most dental schools require interviews as part of the admissions process.

Best Dental Schools in the US – Career Paths After Graduating

For those interested in becoming a general practice dentist, a dental degree is all you need. For those interested in specializing in a particular field, you’ll need to plan to attend a dental residency program after graduation. There are twelve different specializations to choose from:

  • Dental Anesthesiology
  • Dental Public Health
  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral Medicine
  • Orofacial Pain
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics

When it comes to residencies, the ranking and reputation of your dental school will impact a) your chance of acceptance and b) where you’re placed. So, students looking to pursue a specialization should aim for admission to the best dental schools.

Best Dental Schools in the US – What to Consider Before Applying

Choosing the right dental school for you is an important decision that impacts your future career in many ways. Before applying, consider:

  • Cost: Both cost of tuition and cost of living in the city each school is based.
  • Location: Tuition will change depending on whether you’re studying in-state or out-of-state. Certain locations might also offer more internship or career development opportunities.
  • Specializations: If you’re interested in specializing in something like pediatrics or oral surgery, make sure the schools you apply to offer those specializations.
  • Grade system: Many dental schools use the traditional GPA system to award grades, but some use a pass/fail system. If you plan to apply to residency programs post-graduation, attending a school on the GPA system and earning great grades will help you stand out.

Best Dental Schools in the US

The best dental schools offer their students rigorous education, plenty of hands-on experience treating patients, and chances to work with highly trained faculty. Our list of the best dental schools in the US below rounds up the schools with strong records of academic excellence and career connections and outcomes.

Note. As with all rankings, we advise not to place too much emphasis on whether a school was listed at #1 or #7. The better way to use this list would be as a launching off point to further explore each of the following dental schools to see which best suit your unique needs.

1) Harvard School of Dental Medicine

Founded in 1867, Harvard’s School of Dental Medicine is a prestigious program with a long history of excellence. Harvard offers a wide range of specializations in topics ranging from dental public health to orthodontics. They also have outstanding research facilities, where dentistry students are currently developing new treatments for oral cancer and studying how AI can address healthcare disparities.

  • Average GPA: 3.7
  • Average DAT Score: 22
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $555,922

2) University of Michigan School of Dentistry

An excellent program for students who want to pursue research, the University of Michigan School of Dentistry offers Master’s and PhD degrees. 62% of recent graduates go to on to become professors, 19% go on to practice dentistry, and 11% go on to residencies.

  • Average GPA: 3.81
  • Average DAT Score: 22
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $422,894 (in-state); $497,152 (out-of-state)

3) University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry

Founded in 1881, the UCSF School of Dentistry offers well-regarded DDS, PhD, and residency programs. A program that prioritizes hands-on learning, student dentists, residents, and faculty handle more than 120,000 patient visits per year in UCSF’s on-site clinic. UCSF is also investing in the School of Dentistry through a 10-year building expansion project.

  • Average GPA: 3.76
  • Average DAT Score: 22.6
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $443,208 (in-state); $492,188 (out-of-state)

4) University of California Los Angeles School of Dentistry

Located on UCLA’s scenic campus, the School of Dentistry prioritizes community service through its 13 public clinics. At UCLA, dental students can study with world-renowned faculty and, if they choose, go on to a residency program in one of 13 specialized fields.

  • Average GPA: 3.72
  • Average DAT Score: 22
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $432,359 (in-state); $481,399 (out-of-state)

5) University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine

Well-known for producing top-notch dentists and researchers, UPenn’s School of Dental Medicine offers a DMD program and advanced certificates in specialized topics. UPenn has a strong reputation for academic excellence and global public health. Just one among many initiatives, students can get involved in initiatives to promote oral health in Africa.

  • Average GPA: 3.7
  • Average DAT Score: 23.4
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $557,614

6)Columbia University College of Dental Medicine

With a focus on educating oral healthcare leaders, Columbia’s Dental Medicine program stands out as a prestigious and rigorous program. Columbia offers a DDS degree, plus 5 residency and postdoctoral programs. A school that emphasizes technology and innovation, Columbia is currently launching a joint dental-engineering program.

  • Average GPA: 3.7
  • Average DAT Score: 23.4
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $557,614

7)University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill Adams School of Dentistry

Easily ranked among the best dental schools in the US, UNC Chapel Hill is a strong option for students whether they’re interested in practice or research. Through their clinics, Adams School of Dentistry gives DDS students significant hands-on work experience. Students pursuing research also have the opportunity to pursue opportunities through the GO Health Center and the annual student research symposium.

  • Average GPA: 3.6
  • Average DAT Score: 22
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $330,805 (in-state); $485,861 (out-of-state)

8)University of Washington School of Dentistry

Based in Seattle, the University of Washington is best known for its medical, engineering, and science programs. Its School of Dentistry offers a DDS degree, plus certificates in everything in oral radiology to oral surgery. Through their rural clinics and global oral health programs, future dentists can use their education to make a difference.

  • Average GPA: 3.5
  • Average DAT Score: 20.9
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $420,265 (in-state); $551,983 (out-of-state)

9) New York University

NYU’s School of Dentistry educates nearly ten percent of the country’s dentists. Consistently acknowledged as one of the best dental schools in the US, this program educates both practicing dentists and researchers. With a strong emphasis on medical innovation, NYU students can pursue study in pain research, oral cancer, oral health policy, and transnational health.

  • Average GPA: 3.5
  • Average DAT Score: 21
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $626,384

10) University of Iowa

Easily ranked one of the best dental schools in the US, Iowa’s College of Dentistry is known for giving students early and comprehensive clinical experiences. Iowa students begin seeing patients in their first year and gain early exposure to digital dentistry technology.

  • Average GPA: 3.70
  • Average DAT Score: 21
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $224,043.00

11) Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine

Located in Pomona, California, Western University’s dental program boasts a 98.6% graduation rate. They offer a DDM program for dentists looking to enter into practice, and an International Dentist for foreign dentists looking to transition to the US. Known for its focus on new technologies, Western University recently opened a new 2,000-foot dental simulation center.

  • Average GPA: 3.2
  • Average DAT Score: 20
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $420,000

12)Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine

A larger-sized program, Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine’s focus on experiential learning makes it one of the best dental schools in the US. BU students gain invaluable work experience through 10-week externships, clinic shifts, and simulations. For those interested in research, the program offers opportunities to contribute to faculty labs.

  • Average GPA: 3.15
  • Average DAT Score: 19.2
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $540,000

13)University of Maryland School of Dentistry

A strong program located close to Washington D.C., the University of Maryland offers a DDS as well as post-graduate studies. Through their residency programs, future dentists can develop expertise in periodontics, oral surgery, and other topics. Also a strong research school, UM recently won a $1.28 million dollar grant to innovate oral health education for kids.

  • Average GPA: 3.6
  • Average DAT Score: 21
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $416,000 (in-state); $596,000 (out-of-state)

14) University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine

Ranked 9th in the nation for research funding, the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine is at the forefront of medical discoveries. UB students can expect a rigorous education that prepares them for dental careers. Students who want to pursue research can get started as early as their 2nd year. This year, UB won the National Institutes of Health’s prestigious diversity award for fostering equity and inclusivity in research.

  • Average GPA: 3.61
  • Average DAT Score: 20.5
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $150,560 (in-state); $259,400 (out-of-state)

15) University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine

As the alma mater of about half of Connecticut’s dentists, UConn’s School of Dental Medicine is well-known as one of the best dental schools. UConn gives their students substantial experience in clinical work and their in-house dental prosthetic arts laboratory. Aspiring dentists can graduate from this program with a PhD or a dual Doctor of Dental Medicine and Master’s degree in public health.

  • Average GPA: 3.68
  • Average DAT Score: 21
  • Four-year cost of attendance: $237,000 (in-state); $423,000 (out-of-state)

Best Dental Schools in the US – More Resources

Looking for more tips that will help you get into the best dental schools? Read our guide to the Dental School Letter of Recommendation.

And if you’re a high school or early-stage undergraduate student, check out these key resources to start learning about dental careers now.

  • Top BS/Dental Medicine Schools
  • Dataverse: Combined Dental Programs
  • 10 Easiest and Hardest Science Majors
  • How to Become a Dental Hygienist
15 Best Dental Schools in the U.S. – 2024 (2024)
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