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Preparing for a Career in Dentistry

A dentist is a medical professional who leads teams to provide preventative and restorative care to keep people healthy, alleviate pain and treat patients’ oral health needs. Dentists are also at the forefront of research and developments to enhance dental and overall well-being of their patients. A dentist must be comfortable working in close proximity with others, be detail oriented and be very good at working with their hands. Some specialties to be considered include Dental Public Health, Endodontics, Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry and Periodontics.

The path to becoming a medical practitioner begins with a genuine desire and interest in helping other people. The strong foundation built as an undergraduate student at Westminster College includes demonstrating the knowledge, skills and personal growth attributes that contribute to a strong dental school application and future success in dentistry.

Students can choose different paths to dentistry school, but must be mindful of the core requirements for competitive applications, preparing for the DAT exam, gaining appropriate experiences in the field and completing their respective majors. While it is possible for a pre-dentistry student to do virtually any academic major, it is imperative for all pre-dent students to work closely with both academic and health professions advisors to ensure completion of all requirements for professional schools and for their undergraduate degree. Most often, a student on a pre-dentistry track will choose a science major such as Biology, Biochemistry or Neuroscience since the curricula include most, if not all, required and recommended courses. Students will typically apply to dentistry school between their junior and senior years, allowing for a direct transition following graduation, but some wait until after they graduate to apply in order to further their education and gain more relevant experience.

Pre-Dentistry Track at Westminster College - Pennsylvania

The academic and extracurricular experience at Westminster College, ranging from coursework to on- and off-campus service and experiential activities to international study and/or travel, contribute strongly to the appeal of the well-trained and well-rounded individuals who graduate from our school.

A special articulation agreement with Case Western Reserve University allows students to spend three years at Westminster in a traditional liberal arts program, then four years at the Case Western University School of Dental Medicine, earning both the B.S. and D.M.D degrees in seven years instead of the typical eight. To participate in this program, students must be accepted to both Case Western University and Westminster College in their senior year of high school.

Another articulation program permits qualified students who complete the four-year Westminster degree to be directly admitted to the D.M.D. degree program at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) School of Dental Medicine in Bradenton, Florida. Students apply to the eight-year WC-LECOM Dental Affiliation program either as a high school senior, or at any time before the completion of their second year at Westminster.

Core Requirements for Dentistry School (and for DAT Exam Preparation) generally are:

  • Biology (with labs) – Cell Biology and Genetics (BIO 201), Organismal Biology and Ecology (BIO 202)
  • General Chemistry (with labs) – Principles of Chemistry (CHE 117) and CHE180/230/231
  • Organic Chemistry (with labs) – Organic Chemistry I (CHE 261), Organic Chemistry II (CHE 262)
  • Physics (with labs) – Foundations of Physics I (PHY 141), Foundations of Physics II (PHY 142)
  • English – Writing (WRI 111) and an additional course (ENG ---) that requires extensive reading, writing and discussion in the English language
  • Statistics – Biostatistics (BIO 206)
  • Biochemistry – Biochemistry Principles (CHE 381)

The following courses are also strongly recommended:

  • Microbiology – BIO 301
  • Cell and Molecular Biology – BIO 302
  • Anatomy and Physiology I and II (BIO 335/336)
  • Sociology – Principles of Sociology (SOC 101)
  • Psychology – Introduction to Psychology (PSY 101)

Additional course requirements may vary from one professional program to another, so it is the responsibility of the student to be aware of specifics regarding their schools of interest. Good planning and working closely with academic and health professions advisors are essential to maximize chances of success in the highly competitive dental school application environment.

What would a typical Pre-Dentistry schedule look like?

A sample schedule for a biology major preparing to take the DAT exam between their junior and senior year and matriculating to dental school following graduation is below.

First Year (Fall)
First Year (Spring)
Cell Biology and Genetics (BIO 201) SD IP
Principles of Chemistry (CHE 117)
Inquiry (INQ 101)
Speech or Writing (SPE 111 or WRI 111)
Westminster 101 (WST 101)
Organismal Biology and Ecology (BIO 202)
Calculus I (MTH 150) QR IP
Speech or Writing (SPE 111 or WRI 111)
Elective _________(--- ----) FL IP

Sophomore Year (Fall)
Sophomore Year (Spring)
Biostatistics (BIO 206)
Cell and Molecular Biology (BIO 302)
Organic Chemistry I (CHE 261)
Elective __________ (--- ---) VP IP
Microbiology (BIO 301)
Organic Chemistry II (CHE 262)
Elective ________(--- ---) HC IP
Elective ________(--- ---) RP IP

Junior Year (Fall)
Junior Year (Spring)
Anatomy and Physiology I (BIO 335)
Foundations of Physics I (PHY 141)
Biochemistry (CHE 381)
Introduction to Psychology (PSY 101) ST IP
Anatomy and Physiology II (BIO 336)
Foundations of Physics II (PHY 142)
Biology Capstone I (BIO 601)
Principles of Sociology (SOC 101)

Senior Year (Fall)
Senior Year (Spring)
Ecology (BIO 360)
Biology Capstone II (BIO 602)
Elective __________ (--- ---) Cluster
Elective __________ (--- ---) Cluster
Major Elective (BIO ---)
Chemistry Elective (CHE ---)
Elective____________(--- ---)
Elective____________(--- ---)

With the exception of the core requirements and courses strongly recommended ahead of the DAT exam, there is curricular flexibility within any chosen major and among the elective courses that are part of the liberal arts curriculum at Westminster College. It is, however, strongly suggested that students take both courses in Anatomy & Physiology (BIO 335/336) in order to be prepared for the dental school curriculum. Students planning to study abroad for a semester must also plan accordingly to meet all requirements and timelines. It is also advisable for students to budget time during the spring semester of their junior year to prepare for the DAT exam that will test knowledge in Biology, Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry as well as reading comprehension, perceptual ability and quantitative reasoning.

Extracurricular and Off-Campus Experiences

  • Shadowing a dentist (At least 100 hours of shadowing or working in general dentistry practices)
  • Clinical internships
  • Volunteer experience with direct patient contact
  • Any experience working with children (e.g. day camp, science camp)
  • Any experience working with disabled people or individuals with special needs

Where have Westminster students matriculated recently?

  • Case Western University College of Dental Medicine
  • Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) School of Dental Medicine (Bradenton, FL)

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