Shadowing a Doctor

May 20, 2014

What To Expect In Dental School: The Dental Curriculum

Doctor Kigosi teaching patients in Paediatrics While every dental school has a slightly different curriculum based on their approach to dental education, all dental programmes will have the same basic layout spread over four years. Most dental programmes are broken down into two years of classroom coursework and pre-clinical labs followed by two years of (mostly) clinical experiences.

Year One

The first year of dental school will typically cover basic science courses including gross anatomy, microbiology & immunology, cell biology and medical physiology, along with an introduction to basic dental courses such as operative dentistry. During the first year, you will also get introduced to dental anatomy, oral microbiology, pre-clinical work and oral radiology. Pre-clinical work at this time will typically involve basic cavity fillings and preparations, which will be done on plastic teeth.

You will also be likely to have a class in ethics and an overview class that introduces you to the basics of the various aspects of dentistry.

It is very important that you start off on the right foot and stay on top of your assignments and reading right from the start. Given the large number of classes and the hectic workload, it is incredibly easy to get behind as the year progresses. Don’t let this happen – it can be extremely difficult to catch up.

Year Two

During the second year, you will continue with some of the basic science courses from year one. In addition, you will be introduced to more dental specific classes including orthodontics, periodontology, endodontics, prosthodontics, paediatric dentistry, oral radiology, anaesthesiology and treatment planning. You can also expect to do more lab work and preclinical work during the second year.  

Year Three

During the third year, there is a significant drop in the amount of course work that is done. However, you will also continue to have classes in orthodontics, endodontics, oral/maxillofacial surgery and other more advanced dental classes.

The majority of the time during this year is spent in the clinic working on patients. Third year students are assigned patients with varied dental problems so that each student has the opportunity to see a variety of cases with different needs. You will typically continue to work with some of the same patients for the entire last two years of school and you will be responsible for your patients’ treatments, right from making appointments to following up with them.

Before you can graduate from dental school, you are expected to fulfil certain clinical requirements. Different schools have different specific requirements but typically you will be required to complete a certain number of satisfactory procedures in the various dental disciplines before graduating.

Year Four

During the final year of dental school, students continue with very few courses and spend most of their time working with patients to complete their clinical requirements so they can graduate and sit for their licensing exam.

After graduation, you can go on to do a specialty programme or you can do a one-year general residency. If you decide to start working right after school, you will typically have to first work as an associate or in a large dental clinic for at least a few years to gain the necessary experience and also earn some money before being able to open your own private practice.