Loyola University Maryland

Pre-Health Programs

Pre-Dental Track

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We offer advising, programs, and networking opportunities that help you reach your goal to become a competent and compassionate leader in the field of health care. We contribute to your success by offering guidance throughout your college career and the committee services at the time of your application to dental schools. Loyola’s extensive interaction with Baltimore community affords you an unique opportunity to engage in various settings: dental clinics, hospitals, and research laboratories. In 2016, 75 percent of Loyola’s dental school applicants with a committee letter matriculated into a school of dentistry.

What a Dentist Does

Dentists prevent, diagnose, and treat dental and gum diseases, dental injury, and irregular tooth development. They manage symptoms of dental illness and injury, such as pain.

  • Dentists examine patients, take dental and medical histories, treat dental problems, and prescribe medications.
  • Dentists perform and interpret diagnostic tests.
  • Dentists offer preventive dental services, such as screenings, and educate patients on dietary choices that impact oral health.
  • Dentists educate the public on health and serve on dental advisory boards and committees. Over 80 percent of dentists work in a small business setting where they lead a team of dental hygienists and dental assistants as well as manage their own business.
  • Clinical fields of dentistry include general dentistry, endodontics, which focuses on diseases and injuries affecting dental nerves, oral surgery, and orthodontics, which treats problems related to irregular tooth development.

What a Pre-Dental Student Studies

The four years of your undergraduate education are a time of academic and personal growth. During these years, you deepen your knowledge of natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities in order to build your expert capacity to process and communicate complex information. As a pre-dental student, you gain an understanding of your future profession through classes, dental shadowing and internships as well as community service and leadership.

Most pre-dental students major in natural sciences, particularly biology and chemistry. You should discern carefully what major is the best match for your interests and strengths. Loyola’s successful dental school applicant majors have also included business administration and interdisciplinary biology and psychology majors. The pre-health track is not a major. It is an umbrella program designed to help you navigate your way to a successful health career. Your undergraduate studies should include the classes that are standard pre-requisite courses for dental schools, commonly recommended by dental schools, or essential for success in the DAT:

  • 2 semesters of biology with laboratory
  • 2 semesters of general chemistry with laboratory
  • 2 semesters of organic chemistry with laboratory
  • 2 semesters of physics with laboratory (non-calculus based intro or calculus-based general)
  • 1 –2 semesters of biochemistry
  • 1 –2 semesters of mathematics, calculus and/or statistics at 200-level
  • Recommended courses: microbiology and other upper lever biology courses

We also recommend that you consider taking additional upper-level biology classes, including microbiology. Since most dentists work in small business setting, you may also find it helpful to sign up for an elective or, to even minor, in business management.

The purpose of pre-requisite and recommended courses is to build your competency to process advanced scientific knowledge and respond to culturally complex health care situations. Do not lose sight of the big picture of your studies: the most important pre-requisite is your entire four-year undergraduate degree.

One of the most demanding aspects of your pre-dental studies is the expectation of consistently high academic achievement across disciplines and class years. Your target undergraduate GPA is 3.5 (A-) or higher. Aim at this high standard with your sciences and mathematics GPA. Remember that your major’s requirements and success in undergraduate studies take precedence over your pre-health planning. For instance, if you are a biochemistry interdisciplinary major it will be necessary for you to take Calculus I and II as well as calculus-based general physics, even though your pre-dental requirements would be satisfied with introductory physics and other mathematics combinations, such as Calculus I and 200-level statistics.

Proper timing is important throughout your pre-dental career. While early preparation plays an important role in your pre-dental success, an early launch may not always be the right timing for everyone. For instance, it is generally advisable to take both introductory biology and general chemistry classes during your freshman year. This guarantees your transition to upper level science courses and electives by the fall of your junior year.  However, in the case that you find yourself overwhelmed during your first months away from home and in a new environment, you might benefit from giving yourself time to adjust to college level studies.

What Are Dental School Degree Options

Dentists hold a doctorate in dentistry. There are two equivalent degree titles: Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.). Of the 66 accredited U.S. dental schools, 40 are public, 20 are private, and 4 are state-related private institutions. Some dental schools offer combined degree programs in areas such as Master’s Degree in Business Administration (M.B.A.) and a research-driven Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Ph.D.). General dentistry degree programs last four years, and approximately 80 percent of dentists practice in the area of general dentistry. Combined degree programs and specialization add years to your education. For example, a combined dental doctorate and M.B.A. degree usually takes five years. Specialization happens after the general degree completion and occurs primarily through residency placements. These programs range from two to four years. For example, a pediatric program usually lasts two years, an orthodontics program is two to three years, and an oral surgery program takes three to four years.

When to Apply to Dental School

Timing is very important with your dental school application – applying too early with an unsatisfactory application submission will set you back by several years and unnecessarily cost you several thousand dollars. If you have an academic buffer – you are clearly above your target GPA and have secured a solid DAT score – and you have demonstrated your commitment to both service and the field of dentistry, you are in a good position to apply as a rising senior. However, in today’s competitive dental school admission climate, many students benefit from additional time to study and prepare. Of Loyola’s successful dental school applicants in 2015 and 2016, close to 70 percent submitted their applications after their graduation.

A well-planned application process is a rewarding experience. You can learn about yourself and the profession in meaningful ways. A rushed process will not give you this deeper sense of satisfaction and, at its worst, it will compromise your collegiate success and experience. Additionally, do not lose sight of course work because of DAT preparation or committee process deadlines. You are in a good position to consider applying during the summer preceding your senior year, when all your application components, - the pre-requisites and additional course work, experience, and the DAT scores - are solid.

How to Prepare for the DAT

The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a standardized test conducted by The American Dental Association (ADA). The purpose of the DAT is to gauge your academic aptitude, scientific knowledge, and perceptual ability. These skills are essential for success in dental school and in the practice of dentistry. The DAT is administered at Prometric testing sites on most days of the year.

The DAT exam has four test sections, a total of 280 questions, and is distributed over a testing time of 5 hours: Each DAT section is scored on a scale of 1–30.

  • Survey of natural sciences (biology, general, and organic chemistry) - 100 questions
  • Perceptual Ability Test - 90 questions
  • Reading comprehension of three passages - 50 questions
  • Quantitative Reasoning (algebra, geometry, trigonometry) - 40 questions

You will receive a separate score for these six areas: biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, perceptual ability, reading comprehension, and quantitative reasoning. You will also receive two composite scores: your total science score / survey of natural sciences score (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry) and your academic average, which is counted as the average of your four main testing areas. The academic average is your DAT score. Your success across the individual test sections is as important as your overall score.

You can retake an unsatisfactory DAT after a ninety-day waiting period. You can take a total of three DATs in a lifetime. Additional efforts at testing require special permission from the American Dental Association. Take practice tests beforehand to assure that you are sufficiently prepared to take the actual test.

Optimal preparation for the DAT depends on your learning style, daily schedule, discipline and motivation, self-confidence, and budget. A clearly laid out plan for self-study through guide books and online resources will probably work for you if you are an organized and self-motivated learner with a strong academic foundation. Loyola students usually rely on self-study using a review book and practice tests. An online preparatory course or tutoring can be a good investment if you find self-study challenging or took the test with unsatisfactory results. In-class DAT preparatory courses are not easy to find. Here are some resources for your DAT review. Please note that this list of resources is not comprehensive nor does it come with the pre-health office’s endorsement of any particular commercial test preparation company.

Partial and limited DAT fee waivers are available for students who apply and demonstrate extreme financial hardship. Please note that these funds often run out early in the year – submit your fee waiver application early in the year!

Why it Takes Two Years to Apply to Dental School

The dental school application process is very competitive. It is a process that takes two academic years:

Year 1: On-campus preparation, the DAT, and the pre-health committee interview

  • Prepare for and take the DAT
  • Secure three strong recommendations.
    • At least two of these recommendations should come from the faculty
    • At least one of the faculty recommendations should come from a science professor.
    • Your recommendation letters should be sent to the pre-health committee (prehealthreferences@loyola.edu)
    • The recommendation letters will accompany your pre-health committee letter of evaluation
  • Write an effective personal statement
    • Attend workshops
    • Seek feedback
  • Organize your curriculum vitae entries
    • Present a clear hierarchy of your education, honors and awards, health care experiences, volunteering, research, leadership, and work.
    • Count the hours spent in each activity. You will need to know them at the time of the application.
  • Interview with the pre-health committee
    • Interviews are arranged during the week of final exams in April/May.

Year 2: Your application to medical schools

  • Finalize your selection of school choices
  • Submit your application to the ADEA AADSAS
  • Answer the school-specific secondary applications
  • Interview with the medical schools
    • Prepare financially for your medical school studies

    How Loyola’s Pre-Health Committee Process Works

    Loyola’s dental school applicants will receive a pre-health committee interview during final exam week in April/May. The pre-health committee reads your dossier and offers you a thirty-minute interview.

    The interview and evaluation of your entire dossier helps you to assess your readiness to apply to dental schools and to provide you with the critically important committee letter. This offers a comprehensive assessment of your applicant profile and helps your application stand out in the complex and competitive dental school admissions process.

    Pre-Health Committee Members 2016 –2017

    Francis Cunningham, Ph.D., Philosophy, Co-Chair
    Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner, Ph.D., B.S.N., R.N., Pre-Health / Theology, Co-Chair
    Dipa Sarkar-Dey, Ph.D., Mathematics
    Christopher Thompson, Ph.D., Biology
    Randall Jones, Ph.D., Physics
    Brian Barr, Ph.D., Chemistry Pre-Health Committee

    Time Line 2016 –2017    

    • Mandatory Committee Process Deadlines

      Sunday, December 4 (6 - 7pm)
      Mandatory Information Session and Application Opening - Cohn Hall 133
      Intent to Apply Due

      Tuesday, January 31
      Committee Interview Application and Reference Information Due by 5pm (Drop-Off in Maryland Hall 145)

      Tuesday, February 14
      Committee Mentor Names Released to the Students over Email

      Tuesday, March 28
      Committee Interview Materials and Reference Writers’ Recommendations Due by 5pm (Maryland Hall 145)

      Reference writers’ letter submission over email: prehealthreferences@loyola.edu or drop-off in Maryland Hall 145

      Wednesday, May 3 – Thursday, May 11
      Committee Interviews

      Workshops

      Monday, October 10 (6 - 7pm)
      Junior and senior info night (all health professions) - KH B01

      Sunday, January 22 (6 - 7pm)
      Application Workshop I - Personal statement, school selection, and communicating with recommenders (Place: TBA)

      Sunday, February 20 (6 –7:30pm)
      Application Workshop II - Personal statement, CV/resume, committee interview tips
      (Place: TBA)

      Sunday, May 7 (6 –7pm)
      Application Workshop III (AMCAS/AACOMAS/AADSAS process)
      (Place: TBA)

    Evaluation Criteria

    The pre-health committee assesses your application strength based on the following criteria:

    • Overall academic preparedness o Grade Point Average (GPA)
      • Grade trends
      • Course selections
      • Honors and awards
      • Honor’s Program participation (if applicable)
      • Reference writers’ evaluations
    • Natural sciences and mathematics preparedness
      • Biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics GPA, grade trends
      • Grade trends
      • Course selections
      • Reference writers’ evaluation
    • Depth of your experiences as seen in the curriculum vitae
      • Community volunteering and extracurricular activities
      • Health care experiences, including shadowing, volunteering, internships, and research
      • Leadership, including tutoring and mentoring
      • Varsity athletics
      • Work
      • Relevant certifications and training, including EMT, the CNA, and tutor certifications
    • Demonstration of social responsibility and personal integrityanswers, and transparency concerning possible institutional actions
    • Mature understanding of the profession and yourself
    • Capacity to engage in conversations concerning dentistry, bioethics, and health care as seen the interview answers
    • Capacity to constructively overcome challenges and hardships

    The committee does NOT use your DAT score as one of its evaluation criteria.

    You will receive feedback and suggestions within few days of your interview. If the committee advises you to wait with your application, you are encouraged to return for a new interview during the upcoming years.

    Pre-Health Committee Contact Information

    Applicants:  For any questions or to declare your intent or request your pre-health committee application packet:

    Maiju Lehmijoki-Gardner, Ph.D., B.S.N., R.N.
    Coordinator of Health Professions Counseling
    mlehmijokigardn@loyola.edu
    410-617-2218

    Letter of recommendation writers: please submit your recommendation letters on institutional letter head and with signature to prehealthreferences@loyola.edu.

    We will confirm the receipt of your letter.

    How to Apply to Dental Schools

    The second half of your two-year application process begins once your on-campus preparation with workshops, preparations, and committee interview is complete and you have your DAT score. This part of your application process begins with the opening of the centralized dental school application system. The centralized dental school application portal, the ADEA AADSAS, usually opens in the first week of June. You will need several weeks to prepare your online application form.

    At this time you will finalize your selection of dental schools using the information available through the outstanding guide book ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools 2015–2016. This guidebook contains the specific admissions requirements to all 66 dental schools in the United States and 10 dental schools in Canada. In 2015 and 2016, successful Loyola applicants applied to a mean of 13 dental schools. Here are a few important items for you to look for as you are finalizing your school choice

    • enrollee DAT and GPA (overall and science) scores
    • in-state and out-of-state enrollees
    • required and recommended pre-dental coursework.

    The earlier you submit your application the better: you will avoid the long application verification lines and your application will reach the schools before they begin their rolling admissions process. Know yourself: submit early if your application is coming together as planned, give yourself some time if you are still figuring out important applicant components, such as DAT scores.

    • Request transcripts from all the universities in which you have completed course work. Do this first!
    • Have an unofficial copy of your transcript or your complete course list with you; you will feed in all your course information, one by one and in verbatim.
    • Print out your curriculum vitae. It is easier for you to visualize your experiences and achievements
    • Once you send as your Loyola committee letter provider, the application system will automatically generate a committee letter request.The committee letter will be accompanied by the recommendation letters that were sent to us on your behalf.
    • Upload your pre-prepared personal statement
    • Select the schools to which you want to apply.
    • You will request your DAT scores to be sent to ADEA’s centralized application services (AADSAS) by using your DENTPIN identification code.

    Once you hit submit, you still have a lot to do. Do not walk away from your submitted application. Stay alert!

    • Monitor receipt of your committee letter and transcripts.
    • Monitor your application verification.
    • Look out for the school-specific secondary applications from dental schools. The dental schools will follow up with your ADEA AADSAS submission by sending additional application questions, the so-called supplemental applications.
    • Prepare for the interview season, which runs from September to early spring. Make sure not to miss an email that invites you to a medical school interview!
    • Check your spam folder frequently to make sure that you do not accidentally ignore critically important emails.

    What Happens at Dental School Interviews

    The purpose of the on-site dental school interviews is two-fold. On one hand, the interviews offer dental school admissions teams an opportunity to learn more about your motivation for and understanding of the profession. On the other hand, the interviews help you to gain an informed understanding of the school and its programs, including financial planning for dental school studies.

    A typical interview day includes an information session about the school and financial aid, a tour, lunch with current students, and one or two meetings with the admissions committee members, such as clinical or science faculty. Some schools use the so-called multiple mini interviews (MMI) format, which consists of several brief stations, where you interact with other applicants in a dental or ethical scenario.  

    Here are some ways to prepare for your big day:

    • Gain confidence through advance planning, neutral choice of professional attire, and timely arrival on site
    • Know yourself: Be prepared to discuss in concrete ways your motivation for the profession, your intellectual growth and interests, and your long-term plans for the future. Expect questions about the content of your volunteering, internships, and research. What volunteering experience has shaped you the most? What questions interested you the most during your summer research? Expect also questions about you as a person: What do you like to do in your spare time? What do you consider as your greatest strength or weakness?
    • Understand the profession: Be prepared to discuss in concrete ways your understanding of the various stages of dental education, practice of the profession, and dental team work. Expect questions about your realistic understanding of the profession, your commitment to patient care, and your potential to practice hands-on in a small business setting. What experiences have exposed you to the practice of dentistry? What do you see as the most challenging aspect of a dentist’s work? Also, use this opportunity to ask a few informed questions about your interviewer’s own interests in dentistry.
    • Know the dental school you are at: Explore the school’s mission and special programs. Understand the ways in which the school’s history and its location impact its culture. For instance, a large urban dental school and a small rural dental school are likely to have programs that are specific to their immediate surroundings. You may want to prepare a few questions that show your understanding of the school’s history, its unique mission, and its engagement with the surrounding community.
    • American Dental Association’s home page to understand some of the most recent advocacy issues in the field. Come by the pre-health office to borrow a good book about bioethics or social aspects of health care. Read your daily news from the trusted publications that follow the best standards of in-depth journalism.

    Collect a few business cards once you are at the interview: this makes it easier for you to write your nice hand-written thank-you notes for your interviewers. Pre-health advisors and admissions officers have come together to offer helpful advice for you in the booklet Interviewing for Health Professions Schools.

    How to Pay for Dental School Application Process and Studies

    You will find that the process of applying to dental schools requires careful financial planning. Find out about your eligibility and apply early for the ADEA AADSAS  fee assistance for your dental school application process. The ADEA AADSAS fee assistance funds are limited – apply early!

    The cost associated with the application process will include the DAT examination fee ($ 430 in 2016), the ADEA AADSAS application service fees ($245 for submitting the application, which includes the application to one school, $98 for each additional applications), and dental schools’ supplementary application fee which range from $20 to $200. Loyola’s successful dental school applicants applied on average to 10 dental schools in the 2015 and 2016 application cycles. 

    The cost and required loans of your four-your dental school tuition is likely to cross the $200,000 mark. The most cost- effective options are public dental colleges in your state of residency. Your financial tool kit may include a combination of financial aid, federal education loans, savings, and private loans. It is important for you to maintain strong credit as you apply to dental schools; this helps you with your access to quality loans.

    You may also want to look intoservice scholarships and loan repayment programs and state loan forgiveness programs. These programs help you to finance your dental school study in exchange for your commitment to dedicating a certain period of time serving as a dentist in the armed forced or working with underserved populations in urban or rural areas. All scholarship and loan repayment/forgiveness programs call for individuals who demonstrate their commitment to the sponsoring organization’s mission.

    What to Expect at Dental School

    The dental school curriculum consists of four years of study. The first two years focus on biological sciences class, including anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, and pharmacology, and dental sciences, such as oral anatomy and oral pathology. The first two years also include practice of foundational clinical skills, such as physical examination and diagnosis, through simulation. Once dental school students have completed their biomedical science course work, they take Part I of the National Board Dental Examinations. This stage of the national examination focuses on biomedical sciences. The third and fourth year of dental school consists primarily of clinical practice in a variety of supervised dental practice settings, including pediatric and geriatric care, services for the disabled and chronically ill, and oral care in hospitals. Dental schools have a strong emphasis on serving changing populations and the most vulnerable through clinical and educational outreach. Students take the clinically focused Part II of the National Board Dental Examination toward the end of their clinical rotations. The final licensure for the dentists comes through thestate licensure boardsand includes their varying regional licensing requirements.

    Where Loyola Alumni Go to Dental School

    Dental schools in which Loyola alumni currently study include:

    • Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine
    • Indiana University School of Dental Medicine        
    • Nova Southeastern College of Dentistry
    • Rutgers School of Dental Medicine
    • Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine
    • University of Buffalo School of Dental Medicine
    • University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine
    • University of Maryland School of Dentistry