Saturday, March 06, 2010


The DAT is the "Dental Admissions Test." It is the dental equivalent of the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). It is an all day test that evaluates competence in academics and perceptual ability. These are attributes thought to indicate potential success in dental school. Here is a link from the ADA with lots of info on the test.

ADA information on the DAT

If you do well in chemistry, biology, and math, you will do well on the test. A long time ago, there was even a part where they would make you carve a large piece of chalk into something. This was to test manual dexterity. They have since done away with that part of the test.

Dentistry is not solely an academic endeavor. Yes, if you cannot manage chemistry, anatomy etc. you will not be admitted. If you ace the academic parts and do not have the ability to think in 3-D and rotate objects in your mind and express this, you will reach a point where you will not succeed at the more "practical" parts of dental education. In addition, if you are a total klutz with your hands and manipulating small objects, forget dentistry.

What matters in my experience on what gets you "in" to dental school is in this approximate order of importance:

1. Grades
2. Personality (people skills)
3. Experience
4. The DAT

Did I mention Grades? I have written extensively on this on other posts on the blog and in the comment section. If they see improvement in grades that is good. A "B" average from some schools is better than an "A" average from others. Still, a demonstrated record of achievement is something they look at seriously. They do not want to invest time, money, and effort on someone who will not complete the program. In addition, like any other highly desirable program, they want the best they can get. Dental school is competitive. So, a high DAT score will not get you admitted, but will help.

Here is some more information:

ADA publications on dental school


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Anonymous said...

Notwithstanding your experience at the UADS, quite likely it will be difficult to find a ds in the US that ranks the order of importance as you have suggested. Personality certainly plays a role in the selection process but judging by our colleagues one might suggest that adcoms have a warped sense of humor. As for the importance of experience, without a doubt, it is among the greatest misconceptions pre dents have. There is no evidence to suggest that ds value "experience" as you claim at least, nothing above and beyond the required/recommended shadowing hours.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Like I said, grades have an inordinate level of importance in the selection process. Yes, the DAT is sort of a "grade" as well that is taken into consideration. I probably should not underestimate the importance of the DAT as it can be a way for schools to compare particular candidates who are otherwise similar in qualifications.

As an aside, when any program is extremely competitive, you have excellent applicants all over the place. How do you decide? That's where the intangibles take their place in the process. I am glad I am not on any selection committees. Do not underestimate interpersonal skills--they are very important when dealing with patients. especially in the "real" world.

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

Anon-- yes, you are likely correct in that dental students think experience is more highly prized than it really is. What I mean by experience though is not just knowledge of the profession, but experience in business, experience in demonstrating management skills, real life experience, additional degrees or academic accomplishments. Oh, and Research.---Did I say Research? If you have done research in undergrad, (and can explain the what and why of your project in a coherent manner), they really like that!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog Dr. Dean! I am a GP and thinking about applying to pediatric programs next year. I find your blog very helpful, educational, and interesting. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us!

Cmt0204 said...

Not sure if my previous post worked so im going to post again, sorry if it did.anyhow just wondering how a 3 year olds front top teeth would be repaired when the enamel has decayed half way down the tooth showing the dentin as in the way baby bottle tooth decay does..would it be done with some type of filling to fill the tooth or does it have to be crowns?

Dr. Dean Brandon said...

With from tabby teeth--basically, if the decay is small--a filling, if it is large --crowns, if it is very large--the tooth is not restorable and is removed.