When we think of “dentistry”, we automatically think of teeth, but there is so much more to this branch of medicine. This may be an excellent career path if you are interested in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of conditions associated with the mouth and surrounding structures.
The Bachelor of Health Sciences degree program offers excellent preparation for students interested in a career in dentistry. The courses offered provide students with differing perspectives across the spectrum of health sciences concentrations, and our graduates are well-prepared to apply for admission to dental schools both inside Canada and internationally. The information below provides an overview of the general admission process to dental schools in Canada, and students are encouraged to do their own research into the specific dental schools in which they are interested.
Many courses offered in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program will expose you to content that is covered on the DAT, and further on into dental school. Suggested courses include:
- General Chemistry (CHEM 113 / CHEM 114)
- Human Cell Physiology (PHGY 170)
- Introductory Biology of Cells (BIOL 102)
- Introductory Biology of Organisms (BIOL 103)
Please note that these are suggestions for DAT preparation. It is recommended that students spend time researching the entrance requirements for specific dental schools, and also review information provided by the Canadian Dental Association (http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/becoming/dat/index.asp)
Before the Application
Do What You Love
If you do, you’ll tend to thrive! Choose a university program that interests you since you will usually attain better marks learning something that fascinates you. Be aware that you do not have to be enrolled in a health sciences program in order to apply to dental school. All schools require specific prerequisite courses, however, they can be completed in conjunction with any degree program.
Research the Profession
Consider conducting information interviews with dentists and dental students. Ask your family dentist for an appointment to discuss your career goals and his or her experiences in the field. Know the realities of the day‐to‐day work and how it fits with what you know about yourself. Be realistic and informed by exploring other career options in addition to the role of a dentist.
Meet the Prerequisites
Know what courses are required and obtain them at any time before you apply. To test out your fit with the dental school curriculum and to enable you to apply to many schools, you may want to consider including the desired prerequisites for a variety of schools in your program. Each dental school has slightly different prerequisites so always check the specific schools to ensure that these general suggestions will allow you to meet the most up‐to‐date admission requirements.
Aim High Academically
Be sure to keep the doors open. The reality of dental school applications today is that undergraduate grades (even if you have continued your education beyond undergrad) are an extremely important part of the process. A few programs calculate GPA in unique ways (e.g. best two years or without lowest three grades) so check each program to help you strategize about where (or when) to apply.
Become active in your community and with activities that mean something to you. Dentists are active and visible members of their communities, despite very busy working lives. The ability to balance academics with employment, volunteer work, sports, community and extra‐curricular interests is a trait that application committees are looking for in prospective dental students. Successful candidates often show a commitment long‐term to some activities and showcase their ability to progress to leadership positions. They also try new things that test out and allow them to demonstrate diverse interests, too.
Application Basics and Deadlines
Applications are done through each individual dental schools’ website, and deadlines may vary between schools. It is estimated that depending on the number of schools to which you apply, the process can take anywhere from a couple to tens of hours to complete, so planning ahead is essential for success.
Most dental schools will request that you send an official transcript directly from your university to their admissions office. This must be done separately for each institution you choose to apply to.
Decide (If and) When You Will Write The Dental Aptitude Test (DAT)
It is recommended to take the DAT a full year prior to applying. Most schools accept DAT scores from tests written within 2 years of the application deadline, but you should check each institution as some may differ in this respect. The DAT takes place twice every year, once in November and once in February. The written component consists of a biology/chemistry, perceptual ability, and reading comprehension section. There is also a manual dexterity section which involves carving soap into a precise shape, however, this is optional since only select schools consider it in the application process. If you elect to write the DAT, decide whether your learning style is more conducive to a DAT preparatory course or to self‐study. Both methods have worked for students in the past. Make sure to read up on the test day rules before going in for the exam! For more information on the DAT, visit the Canadian Dental Association here (http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/becoming/dat/index.asp)
Dental Aptitude Test (DAT)
Schools that use the DAT as part of the assessment process each have minimum criteria for the different sections of the exam. Some schools only look at select sections, so be sure to check with the school to see which sections they evaluate and their cut-offs. It is not uncommon for students to write the DAT more than once and each school treats this differently. Students may write the test an unlimited number of times, but only the most recent score is considered by schools. When you register for a DAT exam, up to 5 official transcripts of your DAT scores are included in the DAT registration fee (and one personal copy). Applicants are advised to carefully select the schools that are to receive their DAT scores at the time of registration. Applicants can choose to send official transcripts to any school of their choice.
Some schools will ask for an itemized list (with descriptions) of activities. This can include employment, volunteer work, education, awards and accomplishments, extra-curricular, research and other activities. You may also be asked to include the name and contact information of a person who can verify the activity. Be sure to use current contact information for the verifier so that dental schools can easily connect with them, if needed.
Personal Questions/Essay/Supplementary Materials
Some dental schools will ask applicants to submit answers or essays to general or specific questions about their goals, experiences and fit with the program. Students applying in a category such as a graduate student or aboriginal student may also be required to submit additional materials, letters, or essays. This part of the application can be an extremely time‐consuming part of the application process, so it is wise to start early and have others read your writing along the way. Flawless grammar and spelling are essential. Pondering the personal statements portion of the application sometimes highlights for students that they may be having difficulty articulating their specific reasons for choosing a career as a dentist and defining what makes them different from other well‐qualified candidates. Tell succinct but vivid stories that enable the reader to get to know you and to see your potential contributions to the occupation of dentist and to their dental school.
Some schools may require you to provide referees that can speak on your behalf. This may only involve providing contact information, or actually having your referee send in a letter of recommendation. Check each school of interest as they may differ in their reference requirements. Choose people who know you well. Set up an appointment to discuss your goals, your recent activities and to help them remember specific incidences in which your best qualities stood out. Get started with this early to give your references ample time to write a great reference for you. Thank them in writing afterwards and let them know your progress.
After succeeding at the initial application stage, you may be invited to attend an interview at the dental school. Need help? Interview workshops are offered by Queen’s University Career services.
Because of the extremely competitive nature of dental school entrance requirements in Canada, some applicants consider attending a dental school in the U.S.A., Caribbean, or elsewhere internationally. There are many factors to consider when making this decision including increased tuition and living expenses, ability to practice in Canada, and the challenges of living in another country.
The process of applying to and paying for dental school can quickly become onerous. Each school has their own application fees which may vary from $100 to several hundred dollars. Registering for the DAT in Canada currently costs $295 and may have additional fees. There are also costs for requesting official transcripts and travel expenses for interviews.
Dental school tuition can also get quite expensive due to the need of having dental instruments and materials. There is, however, some help available for both the application costs and tuition and expenses. Many students use OSAP or attain a line-of-credit from their bank to help fund their dental education.
Canadian Dental Schools
Check with each dental school to ensure that you have the most accurate and up‐to‐date admissions criteria. If you are applying to another province, ask about the number of spots available to out‐of‐province students then build that knowledge into your application strategy.
- University of Toronto
- University of Western Ontario
- University of Alberta
- University of British Columbia
- Dalhousie University
- University of Saskatchewan
- University of Manitoba
- McGill University
For help with strategies for this and other career goals, visit Career Services, which is free to all currently-registered Queen’s students: careers.queensu.ca