Let’s face it, medical doctors have it easy.
Nearly everyone in the U.S., no matter how much they know or care about science, can name Harvard and Johns Hopkins as the best medical schools in the country.
But it’s not so easy for future dentists.
Although dentists serve a vital role for society, by teaching us how to take care of our teeth and the relationship between our health and the foods we eat, they rarely get the glory given to their fellow healthcare professionals.
Just because great dental schools aren’t famous doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Like their MD counterparts, dentists must spend years in school to develop their skills, and they must go through rigorous training and testing before they’re given the right to practice.
Before you assume that going to a good dental school means jetting off to an expensive part of the country like New York or San Francisco, we’re here to tell you that the American Midwest has schools that stand up to any on the East or West Coasts.
This list covers the best dental schools in the Midwest states, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Each of the schools covered here has great faculty, top-notch resources, and everything else a future dentist needs to enter the field.
University of Michigan School of Dentistry (Ann Arbor, MI)
Most lists put the school within the top five in the entire world.
What earns the U of M such high praise? In addition to the school’s accomplished faculty and history of successful alumni, the school’s most extraordinary claim to fame is its ambitious research agenda.
Multiple research labs make their home at the University of Michigan, including the Bradley Lab. Within the lab, researchers and students work to understand the organization of taste receptor cells.
Other labs within the school cover everything from image analysis for dental and craniofacial bionetworks to the factors responsible for craniofacial skeletal development.
With all of these research opportunities available to them, students have the chance to work at the forefront of dental research.
University of Iowa College of Dentistry (Iowa City, IA)
Not only is the University of Iowa College of Dentistry the only dental school in the state of Iowa, but it is also one of just two dental schools in the country to offer every one of the specialty training programs accredited by the American Dental Association.
That commitment to excellence drives every aspect of the College, including its recent $65 million building renovations.
With such resources in place, the school offers excellent opportunities to the 80 students currently in the program.
Those resources include a fully-appointed simulation clinic, allowing students to develop their skills before working with real patients.
At the end of their first year, students gain hands-on training in one of the many clinics hosted in the College’s Dental Science Building. These clinics serve over 165,000 patients annually, providing students with exposure to a wide range of situations.
New techniques and responsibilities are added to the students each year, letting them build their skills as they continue their studies.
Indiana University School of Dentistry (Indianapolis, IN)
Part of the Indiana University – Purdue University campus in Indianapolis, the School of Dentistry is the state’s only dental school. It was established in 1879, and in those nearly 150 years, the school has trained some of the best dentists in history.
Alumnus Dr. Robert M. Ricketts was a pioneer in the field of orthodontics. He developed the Ricketts’ Cephalometric Analysis and a widely used orthodontic bracket. Dr. Ricketts also wrote over 30 books, relating his groundbreaking research.
After graduating from the School in 1980, Dr. Elaine C. Wagner went on to become the first female pediatric dentist to earn a flag rank in the United States Navy, becoming Chief of the United States Navy Dental Corps.
Throughout her three-decade career, Dr. Wagner earned awards, including the Meritorious Service Medal and the Legion of Merit.
As these impressive graduates demonstrate, the Indiana University School of Dentistry has an exemplary track record of training exceptional dentists.
University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry (Omaha, NE)
In addition to learning about the fundamentals of the dental trade, students at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Dentistry also learn about the importance of caring for the community. They learn this lesson by participating in one of the College’s many outreach programs.
One such program is the school’s SHARING Clinic (Student Health Alliance Reaching Indigent Needy Groups).
In these clinics, students gain hands-on experience with serving patients from diverse cultures while improving the dental health of those who need it most. The Lincoln clinic alone provided approximately $25,000 in free dental care.
Students also participate in the school’s annual Children’s Dental Day. Working alongside staff and faculty, students diagnose issues and perform cleanings to underserved children throughout the state.
Since the program was founded in 2001, the School has provided over $3 million in free dental care to more than 6000 children.
Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine (Downers Grove, IL)
There are many ways to judge the quality of a dental program, including the quality of alumni and the breadth of their research. But for your average dental student, it all comes down to one question: will this program help me get a job?
With a 100% graduation rate and a 99% national board pass rate, the College of Dental Medicine at Midwestern University answers that question with a resounding “yes!” The college puts a priority on the practical skills students develop to take into their future careers.
To that end, the school has launched programs such as the BRIDGES program. The newly launched initiative helps students enter the school to begin a career in dental medicine.
The program actively recruits from members of underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged populations, to provide the support they need to practice dentistry.
A.T. Still University Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (Kirksville, MO)
Every school on this list has its outreach programs to improve its local communities. But at the Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health at A.T. Still University, serving the community is an immediate need.
Because Missouri is currently experiencing a severe shortage of dentists, MSDOH strives to place its graduates throughout the state. Students take into these areas knowledge gained through a first-class education, which puts them among the most talented dental healthcare professionals in the nation.
However, MSDOH isn’t just about practical concerns. Instead, the school emphasizes student research, giving them ample opportunities to advance their knowledge through experimentation. Projects include taking advantage of 3D printing technologies, understanding artery calcifications, and more.
As this focus demonstrates, MSDOH provides the state not just with much-needed dentists, but some of the country’s most innovative professionals.
Marquette University School of Dentistry (Milwaukee, WI)
The state of Wisconsin offers its residents only one dental school and clinic. But what a clinic it is! State-of-the-art resources are housed in the 120,000 square foot facility, including medical mannequins and high-tech equipment.
These technologies give students the opportunity to practice their skills before working with real patients.
The facility demonstrates Marquette’s devotion to innovative work. Since it was founded in 1894, Marquette’s School of Dentistry has remained committed to providing students with access to the latest technology and tools, ensuring that they graduate with hands-on experience with the materials that they’ll need to succeed.
All of these aspects serve the school’s focus on evidence-based research. Working alongside their faculty mentors, students take advantage of Marquette’s resources to advance their own interests, innovating in the subject while gaining knowledge.
University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry (Chicago, IL)
Founded in 1891, the College of Dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago has a long history of excellence in the dental field.
That history reaches back to the 1930s and 40s, when the College was at the center of marked advancements in the subject, thanks to the work of the Vienna Group of researchers and faculty members.
Today, UICCD continues that proud tradition with the latest in dental innovations.
The school houses the Center for Wound Healing & Tissue Regeneration, which brings together both scientists and clinicians to study issues related to injuries and healing.
The Center encourages collaborative research with the goal of developing new therapies, which will have an immediate impact on dental health.
Likewise, the Multidisciplinary Oral Science Training (MOST) Program supports students from a number of fields as they explore new directions in dental sciences.
Taking advantage of all of the resources offered by the University of Illinois at Chicago, the program gives students access to a diverse patient population and the latest in research techniques.
Creighton University School of Dentistry (Omaha, NE)
For most of the schools on this list, students gain advanced experience working as residents in specialty programs. But the Creighton University School of Dentistry tries a different approach, teaming students with faculty observers to perform advanced procedures within the school.
This desire to keep things within the school is continued in its research program. Thanks to funding from institutions such as the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, Creighton enjoys approximately $1.5 million in research monies.
But the real draw for Creighton’s upcoming academic year is its new dental building. The $84 million project equips the school with everything that it needs to train the finest dental experts, including a 7,250-square-foot pediatric clinic and multiple preclinical labs.
Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine (Cleveland, OH)
The School of Dental Medicine at Case Western Reserve has an extremely competitive 2.9% acceptance rate.
With such an exclusive rate, Case Western can afford to limit itself to the best of the best. Those who get in will be following in the footsteps of some outstanding alumni, including dentistry innovators Holly Broadbent Sr. and Jr.
Students in the school get the opportunity to work in highly respected programs such as Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Since its founding over 30 years ago, the program can be completed in five years, as opposed to six years at other schools.
Students at Case Western can also participate in cutting-edge research projects. In the past few years, the school has received millions in funding to create oral cancer detection devices and to study severe oral diseases such as HIV and cancer.