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Best Dental Schools in the US

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Aspiring dentists are often left wondering, what are the best dental schools in the U.S.?

Finding a helpful ranking of the best dental schools is more difficult than for many other types of schools. This is because several years ago, most dental schools boycotted US News and World Report due to their ranking methodology.

As a result, US News and World Report stopped publishing dental school rankings.

best dental schools in the us

There are other dental school rankings which are based on research publications. A school’s research publication record, however, is a criterion that is not necessarily relevant to many aspiring dentists.

To address this, we have curated a list of the best dental schools in the U.S. based on a combination of sources. This ranking takes into account acceptance rates, average DAT scores and GPA, and specifics that make the school unique.

All of the dental schools on this list are accredited by the Commission on Dental accreditation (CODA). CODA is the national accrediting organization for dental schools in the U.S.

Top 5 Dental Schools in the U.S.

5. University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine

The School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania ranks 5th on our list of top U.S. dental schools.

One of the Ivy League campuses, the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine is certainly a distinguished program. It is also among the oldest dental university programs in the country, as are others on this list.

The university is a leader in research, especially about microbial flora in the mouth, virology, inflammation, and tooth development. They also research new dental materials and their various applications.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s dental school and its medical school often collaborate.

Out of 2400 hopeful applicants, 5% were accepted overall and 13.6% of in-state applicants were accepted.

Classes have about 135 students each, and students pay $507,859 for four years of attendance.

4. University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry

World-renowned University of California has two campuses on our list. The first is the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry, ranking 4th best dental school.

UCSF School of Dentistry had 1900 applicants and accepted 4.7% overall and 8.9% of in-state applicants.

Founded in 1881, it is one of the oldest university-based dental schools in the country. For 25 years, it has earned the most research funding from the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.

About 66% of the school’s students are in-state, and the average class size is 88. The cost of attendance for four years is $390,787 for in-state students and $439,767 for out-of-state.

  • The average GPA of accepted students is 3.65, and the average DAT score is 22.8.
  • Official Website: dentistry.ucsf.edu

3. University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry

The University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry is one of the most prestigious dental schools in the country, ranking 3rd on this list.

With 2000 applicants, UCLA School of Dentistry accepted 4.5% overall, and 8.3% of its in-state applicants.

The university is on the cutting edge of research, including cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, craniofacial biology and bioengineering, and infections. It also has an impressive array of specialized clubs and associations.

Like the other UC dental school campus, its average class size is 88 students. About 70% of these students come from in-state.

In-state students can expect to pay $378,673 for four years, and out-of-state students pay $427,653.

  • Accepted students have an average GPA of 3.72 and DAT score of 22.
  • Official Website: dentistry.ucla.edu/

2. University of Michigan School of Dentistry

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry is ranked 2nd on our list, though some rankings put it at #1. It is, undoubtedly, a very prestigious and well-respected dental school.

Established in 1875, it was the second university-based dental school founded in the U.S. It also offered the first dental graduate program in the U.S.

From all American Dental Association presidents, four have been University of Michigan School of Dentistry faculty.

The school also offers additional graduate programs, such as DDS/Ph.D. and DDS/MBA programs. It is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

They had 2000 applicants and accepted 5.25% overall. In-state students had a better chance of getting in, with 16.2% getting accepted.

Class sizes average 109 students each, with about 50% coming from in-state. The cost of attendance for four years is $377,143 for in-state students and $448,084 for out-of-state students.

  • The average GPA of accepted students is 3.6, and the average DAT score is 20.
  • Official Website: dent.umich.edu

1. Harvard School of Dental Medicine

The Harvard School of Dental Medicine is widely considered the premier dental school in the U.S. It is also world-renowned and considered one of the top institutions in the world.

This status affords the university the ability to offer its students the best leaders, staff, research, and training opportunities.

Harvard School of Dental Medicine also holds the distinction of being the first university-based dental school in the United States. Find out more about the Harvard acceptance rate here.

Harvard School of Dental Medicine offers many clubs, networking opportunities, and other extracurricular activities for its students. It is located in Boston, Massachusetts, in the Longwood Medical Area.

Out of 1100 applicants, Harvard accepts 3.18% altogether. In-state applicants have a higher chance of acceptance, at a rate of 7.8%.

The average class size is 35 students. The four-year cost of attendance is $464,971.

  • The average accepted student has a GPA of 3.85 and a DAT score of 22.
  • Official Website: hsdm.harvard.edu

Tips for Getting Accepted

Of course, it is always important to maintain the best GPA that you can. It is also critical to study for the DAT as much, and as effectively, as possible.

Dental schools are very competitive, each only accepting a small percentage of students who apply. It is imperative that you work diligently to attain the highest GPA and DAT scores that you can.

Students who need help improving their GPA or DAT scores can seek out tutoring, study clubs, or professors’ office hours. Additionally, a post baccalaureate or master’s program may be helpful in making up for a less-than-ideal undergraduate GPA.

Dental schools admission committees are also interested in how much you contribute to your community. A track record of relevant volunteer work, employment, and/or club participation with positive references is critical.

Participating in relevant research laboratories as an undergraduate is an excellent opportunity for students, as well. It allows students to work more closely with professors and gain extra knowledge in their field.

This provides unique opportunities to stand out in your application essays and interviews. It also helps ensure a more personal and enthusiastic letter of recommendation because the professor has actually worked with you.

Additionally, admissions committees want to see how interested you are in their school in particular. It is always important to research and visit any schools to which you are applying, and tailor your application accordingly.

Be sure to avoid clichés in your essays, and do be sure to follow the prompt appropriately. Finally, be sure to answer all application questions completely and submit all materials well in advance of all deadlines.

If you are interested in Medical Schools instead, check out our top 5 best medical school list.

Things to Consider When Applying

When choosing the schools to apply to, there are several considerations to take into account.

Of course, you want to make sure you get accepted somewhere, so be sure to apply to some safety schools. These would be schools for which you comfortable meet, or preferably exceed, the standards of the average accepted student.

If you plan to go on to a specialty, you will want to take extra care in your dental school applications.

Take a look at the schools that offer the specialty for which you are interested. Then, see which schools most of their applicants came from.

Be sure to apply to those schools as well, and be very earnest about putting your best foot forward.

Another thing to consider if you are going to pursue a residency program, is how likely you are to do well at the school you attend.

For example, attending a very competitive school, although prestigious, may also make it more difficult to maintain a top GPA. It may be worthwhile, instead, to consider going to a school where you can stand out as a top student.

Dental School Cost, Size, Location

Total cost is a significant factor, as well. Prospective dentists will certainly want to compare tuition and cost of living expenses for possible schools.

The total cost of dental school for four years is typically several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Living costs also vary widely from state to state and school to school.

It is one of many factors prospective dentists will want to consider carefully.

Class size and location may be important to some students, as well. Is it important to you to have small classes, or to live in a small town? Or do you prefer a bustling city?

Research these aspects of the schools, and be sure to visit them in person.

Students should consider their overall combination of factors, career goals, and advice from mentors to determine their ideal dental school.