How dental school works: A year-by-year guide

November 6, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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A Gap Medics mentor explaining a procedure whilst treating a patient If you plan to become a dentist, you need to first graduate with a four-year college degree. What you chose to major in does not matter as long as you meet the science requirements. In addition to taking classes, such as biology, chemistry and microbiology, you have to take the dental school admission exam.

Once you get your acceptance letter, take time to celebrate because you still have four more years of school ahead. Dental school can be a challenge, but it can also be an opportunity for professional growth. Being a little nervous before starting dental school is natural. Understanding what to expect may ease fears and make you feel better prepared for what is ahead.

Freshman year of dental school

Your first year or freshman year of dental school may be a period of adjustment. As far as school goes, expect to spend a lot of hours in lectures. You will likely take medically oriented classes, such as biochemistry, anatomy and physiology. In addition, you will take some dental related courses including oral biology, preventive dentistry and dental anatomy. You will also spend time in the dental lab getting hands-on practice performing basic procedures. But during your first year, you will have little if any contact with patients, which may be a good thing considering you are just starting your dental education.


Getting more comfortable in your second year

You’re not a rookie anymore, and you may be getting the hang of things, which is good because school gets a bit tougher. You will still be attending lectures, but your dental lab work will increase. The second year of dental school also means you take more advanced dental courses which build on what you learned your first year of school.

Although school policies vary, you may have the opportunity to work on a real live person, which will most likely be another dental student. But before you get too excited, keep in mind, someone will also work on you. Procedures performed on fellow students will not be anything too invasive. Most likely you will perform cleanings or take impressions.  At the end of your second year of dental school, it is also time to take the first part of your national boards.


Junior year

You are halfway through dental school. Whether it is dragging or flying by, you have two more years to go. Most likely you will have some lectures, such as pharmacology and paediatrics. But classroom time is less than in your first two years. The time spent in the classroom is replaced with hours spent in the dental clinic. In clinic, you will treat real patients under the supervision of your professors.


Senior year

You made it and are on the homestretch with only one more year to go. You may still have some classroom lectures, but the majority of your time will be spent completing the clinical procedures required for graduation. In addition, you will have to prepare to take the second part of the national exam at the end of your senior year.