Dentistry is a growing, always in-demand field that offers high-paying salaries and the opportunity to specialize in about a dozen subcategories.
More than 201,000 dentists worked in the United States in 2020, the American Dental Association (ADA) reported, and that number is expected to increase by 8% between 2020 and 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Utah has noticed that change recently, too. The number of licensed dentists providing services in Utah increased by nearly 12% from 2012 to 2017, according to a state study.
Becoming a dentist requires four years of graduate training that includes a mix of classroom study and clinical work.
Students gain hands-on experience at a variety of dental facilities, where they learn to care for patients of all ages and backgrounds while pursuing their doctorate of dental medicine (DMD), noted the American Dental Education Association.
Enduring the long hours of study and practice that come with dental school may prove worth it in the end, though. In 2020, dentists working in private practice had an average net income of $170,160.
Dentist salaries in Utah come close to that national average, ranging from about $141,000 to nearly $188,000, according to Salary.com.
Dentists also have lots of options for their practice beyond general dentistry. The ADA also recognizes 12 specialties dentists can choose, such as endodontics, pediatric dentistry, and prosthodontics.
And dental specialists earned even more than those working in private practice in 2020; specialists’ average net income topped $323,000.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at the two Utah universities offering dental programs, from their courses to their student life and everything in between, as well as how to get accepted.
Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine (South Jordan, UT)
The dental program at Roseman University of Health Sciences is one of the newer ones in the nation, having been founded in 2007 at the school’s Nevada campus and moving to its South Jordan one in 2011.
Located in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, the state capital, Roseman teaches undergraduate and graduate students interested in careers in health care. While it offers a DMD program, the university also has opportunities for more advanced dental study.
This includes the Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD) residency program and an orthodontics residency as well as continuing education programs for professionals looking for additional training.
Students in the DMD program encounter five “themes,” or areas of study, ranging from biology basics to clinical skills to patient assessment.
Roseman also takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, meaning students and faculty from the dental department can team up with their peers in departments like nursing and pharmacy for research projects.
In their fourth and final year of study at Roseman, students put all they’ve learned into practice at the oral health clinics in the community as well as the Roseman CODM Primary Care Clinic, where un- and under-insured people can get some much-needed care.
Faculty members who have dental licenses in Utah oversee the students during this time. This well-rounded approach to education ensures graduates leave the school with knowledge of not just how to care for a patient, but also how to manage a dental practice ethically and successfully.
Students can impact the local community beyond the clinic, too. Each year, the university holds events that involve dental care, such as “Give Kids A Smile” and “Back to School Brush-Up,” and students also are active in helping area nonprofits and other causes.
The community returns that support, too, participating in an annual golf tournament that raises money for scholarships at the university. And when they’re ready to relax after a long day of study, students can literally grab a breath of fresh air while enjoying some of the natural amenities near campus, such as skiing and hiking.
These future dentists can also add another layer to their education and even have some fun while doing it by joining some of the 10 student organizations in the dental college. The variety of groups reflect the diversity of campus, with opportunities to join groups such as the Academy of Latter-day Saint Dentists, the Hispanic Dental Association, and Tau Sigma Military Dental Club.
Roseman has chapters of national organizations, too, including the American Dental Education Association and the American Student Dental Association.
University of Utah School of Dentistry (Salt Lake City, UT)
Utah’s other dental school also is located in the Salt Lake City area, this time right in the heart of the capital.
The university’s doctoral dentistry program is on the newer side, as it welcomed its inaugural class in August 2013.
But the university’s history of dental education goes back to the early 1980s, when it began offering a cooperative dental education program through a partnership with other universities, a program it retired when the new School of Dentistry was accredited in 2012.
While the University of Utah does not offer a DMD program, it does have a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree.
But prospective students shouldn’t worry, because DMD and DDS degrees actually are the same, despite the difference in their names, with graduates of both programs getting identical educations, according to the American Dental Association.
University of Utah students finish most of their requirements for graduation in three years, with the fourth and final year dedicated to clinical training.
These future dentists learn their craft in what the school’s dean described as a state-of-the-art, purpose-built facility, the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building. This facility is home to the school’s main dental clinic, which has 80 patient chairs.
The dentistry program falls under University of Utah Health, which covers not just that state but also several surrounding ones. Licensed dentists and faculty members of the dental college supervise dental school students during their hands-on clinical training, where they provide services such as teeth cleanings and fillings on actual patients.
In return, patients get discounted care, a plus for those who have to pay out of pocket or who don’t dental insurance.
Dentistry students also have opportunities to participate in research projects, as the university encourages interdisciplinary research.
Utah residents are also at a significant advantage when it comes to paying for the DDS program. For the 2019-20 school year, in-state tuition and fees came to just over $50,000 compared to more than $86,000 for out-of-state students.
Beyond the DDS degree, the dental school offers continuing education courses and a General Practice Residency (GPR) program. In addition to the dental clinic in Salt Lake City, the university has training clinics for GPR program participants in two other Utah towns, Midvale and Montezuma Creek.
How to Get Accepted into Dental Schools in Utah
Admission requirements are relatively similar at both Utah universities.
The University of Utah and Roseman University both accept applications using a centralized program, the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service. This service makes applying easier for candidates who are applying to multiple schools since they only have to submit one application.
The application includes students’ undergraduate transcripts along with standardized test scores and a personal statement.
In order to ensure prospective students understand what a career in dentistry would involve, some universities require them to do job shadowing prior to applying. University of Utah applicants must complete 80 hours of shadowing experience.
Anyone wishing to pursue a doctorate from a dental school must first take the Dental Admission Test (DAT), which they can do at specific test centers throughout the year.
Roseman requires applicants to score at least 17 on four areas, including total science and reading comprehension.
Roseman looks at an applicant’s entire educational background, including undergraduate and certificate programs, when deciding about admissions. It also requires its dental students to come armed with academic knowledge in the sciences; they must have completed 13 courses in areas such as biochemistry, physics, and organic chemistry. Interested students also must take two communications-related classes before they can be admitted. Candidates need to have earned a GPA of at least 3.0 in science courses, too.
Roseman applicants also will need to collect two “letters of evaluation” from a health professions advisory committee at their undergraduate schools, if the school has one. If not, students will need three letters, two of which must come from science instructors.
The University of Utah looks at applicants’ GPAs, DAT scores, and grades in science classes, but it also considers their whole person.
It takes into account how committed they are to the university’s values and mission as well as the dental profession and the idea of inclusion.
The university even takes this a step further, requiring applicants to take CASPer, a “situational judgment test” that looks at applicants’ people skills.
After the applications window closes, Roseman invites select candidates to interview, a process that takes several months. The University of Utah’s applicant interviews also are by invitation only and start each fall.
Some admission requirements remain in flux because of COVID-19, which has affected some applicants’ abilities to take the DAT or job shadow, so interested students will want to keep checking with each school to find the latest requirements.