Here Are the 10 Best Dental Schools in the US

For those studying to become medical doctors, the top schools are already determined. Future MDs dream about going to Johns Hopkins, Duke, Stanford, and other universities famous for the doctors they create. But what about future dentists? 

Dentists serve an equally important role in society, as caring for our teeth often includes drawing attention to the food we consume and potentially terminal diseases that can form in our mouths. Accordingly, those who want to study dentistry must spend years in school, in programs as rigorous as those experienced by their MD counterparts. 

But for reasons that go beyond the scope of this article, dental schools don’t always get the same attention given to medical schools. Fortunately, you don’t need movies or tv shows to find the best schools for future dentists. Looking at the acceptance rates published by BeMo Academic Counseling, we’ve put together a list of the top ten dental schools according to their acceptance rates. On the occasions when two schools have the same rate, we’ve given the higher spot to the school with the higher entering GPA. 

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the ten best schools for those who will one day keep our smiles shiny and bright. 

10. University of Kentucky College of Dentistry (Lexington, KY)

University of Kentucky
Seicer, Main Bldg (UK), CC BY-SA 3.0

Although it is the younger of the two dental schools in the Blue Grass State, the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry (UKCD) far outstrips its older sister. The college prides itself on its “dynamic and innovative approaches to dental education.” It enacts those ideas with a strategic plan to emphasize the human aspects of its students and their future patients. More importantly, UKCD has focused on bettering the lives of those in their community, with a mandate to reduce oral cancer and improve oral health in Eastern Kentucky, thanks to a $1 million grant

With a 3.6% acceptance rate, UKCD is certainly selective. Their students have an average undergraduate GPA of 3.6 and a DAT academic average of 20. But the school takes a “holistic” approach to admissions, which takes into consideration not only the applicants’ academic history but also their years of service to the community and their leadership skills. 

9. Harvard University School of Dental Medicine (Boston, MA)

Harvard University School of Dental Medicine
John Phelan, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Boston MA, CC BY-SA 3.0

Unsurprisingly, Harvard’s dental school is one of the best in the U.S. The Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) might be the smallest in the Ivy League university, but it does its parent school proud. Not only is HSDM the country’s first university-based dental school, but it continues to bring in high-level awards. In just the past year, professor Shigemi Ishikawa- Nagai won the Catalyst Phase Award from the National Academy of Medicine’s Healthy Longevity Global Competition. More recently, MMSc candidate Arjun Sagu was selected as a finalist in the 2020 American Academy of Periodontology clinical research competition. 

Unsurprisingly, HSDM has an acceptance rate as low as the University itself, limited to only 3.5%. Those who make it in have an average GPA of 3.85 and a DAT of 23. Furthermore, the school has seen its applications increase 13% over the past year, which means that the competition has only grown more intense. However, the school hastens to remind applicants that it considers more than just grades when making admissions decisions, so be sure to develop strong relationships with recommenders and to start pursuing community service right away. 

8. Howard University College of Dentistry (Washington, DC)

Howard University
Derek E. Morton, Howard University Washington DC – Founders Library, CC BY-SA 4.0

Not only is the Howard University College of Dentistry (HUCD) part of a revered historically Black university, but it is the fifth oldest dental school in the U.S. Accordingly, HUCD boasts some of the most impressive alumni in the dental field, including practicing dentist and former mayor of Oro Valley Satish Hiremath. These students embody the college’s mission “to provide exemplary education, service, and research that promotes patient-centered, collaborative care and advocacy for the elimination of health disparities.” 

Students attending HUCD praise the college for its inclusivity and supportive staff. That support comes, in part, from its small class sizes, which the school achieves with a low 3.4% acceptance rate. Those planning to apply to HUCD must have a minimum GPA of 2.75 in science classes, although the school reports its strongest applicants as having a 3.0 GPA in these courses. 

7. Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (Mesa, AZ)

Although a relatively new dental school, having been founded in 2003, the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ASDOH) has already turned out some of the nation’s best orthodontists. Graduates of ASDOH have gone on to win prestigious research grants and take executive positions in state dental associations. 

Such accolades come directly from the school’s commitment to whole-person healthcare, which emphasizes care for the entire patient, not just their dental health. Nothing demonstrates this ethos better than ASDOH’s programs to reach underserved populations in Arizona

The school’s intensive programs require it to be selective, as reflected in its 3.4% acceptance rate. But those who make it in will join a program that serves over 13,000 community members each year in 60 rural and community healthcare centers nationwide. 

6. Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health at A.T Still University (Kirksville, MO)

A.T. Still University
Johndheathcote, ATSU SOMA Entrance, CC BY-SA 3.0

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Missouri suffers from a striking shortage of dental healthcare professionals. The Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (MSDOH) is doing something about that problem by training highly qualified dentists and dispatching them throughout the state. The school prides itself in its charitable works, such as its initiative to donate supplies to local children’s programs

As an “innovative and socially responsible institution,” MSDOH limits itself to a 3.3% rate but takes active steps to recruit students from underrepresented populations. Students in the program celebrate the school’s mix of first-class learning and social service, as shown in testimonies from student ambassadors. When combined with the school’s commitment to student research, MSDOH proves itself to be an excellent choice for those who study dentistry to serve others. 

5. University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine (Farmington, CT)

With an acceptance rate of only 3.3%, you might think that the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine (UCSDM) is a relatively small program. But a better metric of their influence would be the fact that nearly 50% of the dentists practicing in the state of Connecticut graduated from UCSDM. These numbers speak not to the school’s size, but the quality of its education. With a student to faculty ratio of 3:1, UCSDM provides hands-on instruction to its students, thoroughly preparing them for their future careers. 

In pursuit of their goal to be both a training ground for future dentists and a technical innovator, UCSDM spends over $10 million in research funding each year. Students participate in these goals by working in the Dental Center Research Center, where they can serve the community while honing their craft. 

4. LECOM School of Dental Medicine (Bradenton, FL)

Situated in Erie, Pennsylvania, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S., enrolling over 2,200 students. The School of Dental Medicine focuses on problem-based learning, with students learning their trade in one of the school’s outreach offices. The school combines this practical approach with support for research and participation in research competitions

Although LECOM’s School of Dental Medicine prides itself on offering excellent training at an affordable cost, its 3.1% acceptance rate shows that it is an exclusive school. The average GPA of LECOM students is 3.2 or higher, and they have an average DAT score of 18 or higher. But even more than grades, LECOM prioritizes hands-on experience and recommends that applicants spend 100 hours shadowing professionals in a clinical setting

3. Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine (Cleveland, OH)

Case Western Reserve University
Rdikeman, Case Western Reserve Campus, CC BY-SA 3.0

Alumni of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine (CSDM) include some of the most influential people in the field of dentistry, including University of Michigan School of Dentistry graduate director Hom-Lay Wang and dental surgery trailblazers Holly Broadbent Sr. and Jr. 

With such impressive graduates, it’s no wonder that CSDM maintains an exclusive 2.9% acceptance rate. The school chooses its applicants by assigning quality points for a variety of factors, including GPA and DAT score, as well as letters of recommendation and years of experience.  

Students accepted into CSDM get to participate in groundbreaking research programs, such as a $3.7 million grant-supported project to study links between HIV and cancer and the construction of a device to instantly detect oral cancer

2. Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry (Nashville, TN)

Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

The motto of Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry is “Worship of God Through Service to Mankind,” which draws attention to their approach to teaching. A research-focused school, MMC’s dental school improves the world by advancing innovative techniques. Students learn by gathering information and collaborating with others across disciplines. Those values inform the school’s International Track Program, which seeks out students with accreditation from outside of the U.S. or Canada. 

That research focus has yielded several awards given to the school, including an $11.6 million NIH grant and an $8 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

With an acceptance rate of only 2.4%, MMC is highly selective. The school requires a 3.5 science GPA and 498 MCAT, but also requires a personal statement, an interview, and letters of recommendation. These supplementary materials give students with lower grades the opportunity to show the admissions committee all of the qualities they offer. 

1. Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine (Pomona, CA)

Western University of Health Sciences
Ryan Hoff, Campus of Western University of Health Sciences, CC BY-SA 4.0

With an acceptance rate of only 2.1%, Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine is a hard school to enter. Applicants to Western U’s dental school have an average science GPA of 3.09 and an average DAT score of 18-20, as well as a commitment to community service. Students spend 2 hours a week performing community service during their first two years and 32 hours a week performing clinical rotations in their final two years.  

The quality of the Western U College of Dental Medicine is further demonstrated by its many awards, including a recent $3.2 million grant and another $1.5 million grant, both from the U.S. Department of Health and Resources. These awards advance the research agendas of the school’s acclaimed faculty, which includes American Dental Education fellows and an editor of the Berkley Medical Journal.