Students must weigh many different factors when choosing among the best dental schools. After all, dental school is a significant commitment, both personally and financially. And of course, the top schools all have unique qualifications that attract students to study with them.
For example, some students value a well-rounded education, while others want specialized instruction in niche fields. Likewise, some students seek out faculty members with specific research agendas or programs that encourage student research. Faculty-to-student ratios, campus technology, lab spaces, and clinical experiences are additional factors to consider. And finally, many students are concerned about the availability of outreach experiences, too.
But still, dental colleges can also be ranked by acceptance rate. The theory is that the top schools should be the most competitive since so many students want to attend them. In Michigan, the best dental schools, as ranked by acceptance rate, are the University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry and the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in Ann Arbor. Overall, Detroit Mercy accepts about 9% of its applicants. However, when just considering in-state applicants from Michigan, the rate is higher at 20.7%. U-M, in contrast, accepts even fewer students, with an overall acceptance rate of 5.6% and an in-state rate of 16.2%.
2. University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry (Detroit, MI)
The Mercy School of Dentistry at the University of Detroit offers BSDH, DDS, and post-doctoral programs that prepare students for clinical practice or careers in research, administration, or academia. Plus, post-doc students can study advanced general dentistry, endodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, and more. And in an effort to increase diversity, the school had more female students than male for the first time in 2020. Moreover, the student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1, so students have ample chances to learn from faculty mentors.
Detroit Mercy places a strong emphasis on both research and community service. In fact, scholarly activity is one of the school’s major mission-led initiatives. As such, internal research efforts have increased 150% in the last 10 years. To illustrate its commitment to research, the university has made significant investments in related infrastructures like faculty support, funds, innovative technology, cutting-edge equipment, and improved lab spaces.
In fact, Detroit Mercy made another significant investment in 2020 by purchasing a 40,000 square foot facility that will be used for graduate programs and health education initiatives. This purchase further demonstrates the university’s pledge to expand its impact on the dental field.
Above all, research is weaved throughout all of the school’s programs, giving students plenty of opportunities to learn how to make evidence-based decisions from research. Students are matched with faculty who guide them through the research process by helping them develop hypotheses, plan proposals, and carry out research projects. As a result, Detroit Mercy’s dental students frequently receive national awards to conduct research, present their findings at major conferences, and publish in peer-reviewed journals.
Students also have opportunities to present their research closer to home, too. Each year, Research Day allows students to share their scholarly achievements with the faculty at Detroit Mercy. The event is organized by a student organization, demonstrating the overall commitment to research and collaboration.
In addition to research, Detroit Mercy’s other major initiative is community service. Specifically, the school’s faculty feel it is their mission to prepare dental professionals to thrive in socially and ethically diverse settings.
Therefore, the curriculum is embedded with opportunities to serve those in need. For instance, since the 1970s, the school has provided dental services to low-income people in Southeast Michigan. Similarly, the Community Based Dental Education program started in 2006. Through this program, students work with underserved dental patients at several clinics throughout Michigan.
Detroit Mercy also has an active mobile dental program, which takes services directly to the people who need them the most. For example, students provide cleanings and other services plus dental education to children in Detroit and Wayne County by bringing portable dental chairs to partnering schools. Likewise, the school has converted a bus to a fully functional dental clinic and goes to underserved areas to reach children, teens, and adults who require care. In a similar program, the KEM Mack and Third event make specific efforts to reach the homeless population of Detroit, even offering oral cancer exams and other oral health screenings. Through these programs, students also gain a better understanding and awareness of the community’s dental needs.
What’s more, students can also volunteer at four student-run dental clinics that serve low-income adults in the Detroit area. In fact, students handle all of the aspects of running the clinics, down to the administrative duties, giving them a broad appreciation of operating a community-based clinic.
Detroit Mercy retains an active group of alumni that remain connected to the school. The mentor program, for instance, pairs current students with alumni to form relationships that will guide students and give them more resources to succeed in their careers. In this way, students gain an even greater understanding of what it takes to make it to the top of the field. Plus, they can build a network of peers before they graduate, giving them an advantage in the job market.
1. University of Michigan School of Dentistry (Ann Arbor, MI)
Since 1875, the School of Dentistry at the University of Michigan has been at the forefront of dental education. The University of Michigan is a top-tier school that offers students a well-rounded education. In addition to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, U-M also has several post-doctoral programs in specialties like endodontics, prosthodontics, restorative dentistry, and others. Because of the school’s tradition of excellence, it seeks students who want to be leaders in dentistry, either through research or other innovations that improve the field.
In fact, as of spring 2021, the School of Dentistry has been named the number one dental program not just in Michigan but the entire United States. The rating comes from the QS World University Rankings, which rates specialty programs offered by institutions worldwide. This is the seventh straight year that U-M has received the honor, demonstrating the university’s continued commitment to developing the best dental education programs possible.
Plus, QS World University Rankings has also declared that U-M is second on the list of best dental schools in the world, which is an improvement over last year’s third-place award. This honor was based on the school’s overall reputation for academic distinction. Additionally, the opinions of employers on the readiness of U-M graduates were considered, too. The number of scholarly publications and the overall impact of U-M’s research and outreach activities were measured as well.
Other publications put U-M at the top of their list, too. In fact, the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy’s list of top educational institutions across the globe lists U-M as having the number 1 dental school in the field of dentistry and oral sciences. Among other factors, the ranking considers the number of scholarly collaborations that have led to significant faculty awards, further demonstrating U-M’s commitment to being a leader in the profession. The university received the top spot for the fourth consecutive year in the Shanghai Rankings. In total, U-M’s place in these rankings demonstrates the school’s commitment to cultivating the dental profession.
The U-M School of Dentistry expects faculty and students alike to be frontrunners in dental research. Overall, the college supports four basic research areas: disease, cancer and therapeutics, regenerative medicine, and clinical and educational research. U-M was among the National Institute of Health’s top five recipients of funding in fiscal year 2020. Moreover, the dental school encourages faculty to pursue aggressive research agendas.
For example, Professor Nisha D’Silva established the D’Silva Lab, which is conducting transformational research on head and neck cancers that are typically treatment-resistant conditions. In this way, the school is seeking solutions to problems that affect dental practices across the globe.
But just like the U-M faculty, the School of Dentistry students are emerging dental leaders, too. In 2021, three students from the School of Dentistry—Nilay Patel, Raurie Petrish, and Torrey Talifer–pitched a start-up business idea to the university’s “1000 Pitches” competition. When they were awarded first place, they also received $1,000 to launch their idea. Basically, the students want to start a digital platform that will improve the flow of referrals between general dental practices and specialty providers like periodontists or orthodontists. After working in the profession for a time, the students saw the need for improved communication between members of a patient’s dental team. And more importantly, their education from U-M gave them the confidence to find a solution to this common problem. The students have already hired software developers and are planning to test their beta model soon.
This type of leadership demonstrates the type of leaders that U-M seeks to create. Additionally, it is just one example of why the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry is one of the best dental schools in the world.