Best Dental Schools in the U.S.

Dental Students

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Attending a top ranking dental school is a relatively sure way to land a stable and high-paying career working in your own business or with partners in a practice. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, the demand for dentists is expected to increase much faster than the job market norm, and median pay in 2019 was $159,200 per year.

To become a dentist, you're going to need a bachelor's degree in any field, and then either a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) degree, as well as pass certain national and state examinations. It typically takes four years after completing a bachelor's degree to become a dentist.

In the United States, 64 universities offer advanced degrees in dentistry. The dental schools listed below have strong reputations, excellent facilities, and outstanding faculty members.

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Harvard University

The Harvard School of Dental Medicine
The Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

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Harvard University often ranks as one of the top universities in both the country and the world, and this prestigious Ivy League school is also home to one of the nation's top dental schools. The Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) is not located on the university's historic main campus in Cambridge, but a few miles away in Boston's Longwood Medical Area. HSDM students study alongside Harvard medical students for part of their coursework, and they also gain hands-on experience at the Harvard Dental Center, which sees over 25,000 patients annually.

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New York University

New York University
New York University.

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New York University's large College of Dentistry graduates close to 400 DDS students every year. Students take courses in a range of biomedical, behavioral, and clinical areas. Extensive clinical practice is a hallmark of the program, and NYU takes pride in the diversity of its patient pool. Students gain real-world experience in all four years of their education, and they work closely with their group practice directors and faculty.

NYU's dental school is the largest in the country, and nearly 10% of all dentists in the United States were educated there. The school receives about 300,000 patient visits annually, so the breadth and depth of opportunities is hard to match.

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University of Alabama at Birmingham

University of Alabama at Birmingham, UAB
University of Alabama at Birmingham, UAB.

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The University of Alabama is perhaps best known for its impressive NCAA Division I athletic programs on the Tuscaloosa campus, but the Birmingham campus is home to one of the nation's best dental schools. The UAB School of Dentistry graduates about 70 DMD students annually. Students can take advantage of the school's connections with the UAB Health System for a range of research and clinical experiences. UAB offers eight areas of dental specialization: clinical and community sciences, endodontics, general practice, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontology, and restorative sciences.

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University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
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The UCLA School of Dentistry graduates about 100 DDS students a year, and the school also takes pride in the number of graduates who go on to postgraduate training or to earn advanced degrees in oral biology. UCLA dental students begin direct patient care in their second year of the program. Clinical experiences include rotations to a range of specialty and community clinics. UCLA's urban location guarantees that dentistry students have access to a wide range of hands-on experiences working with a diverse group of patients.

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University of California San Francisco

University of California San Francisco

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UCSF is the only school in the University of California system that has no undergraduate programs. This has allowed the campus to specialize and excel in health fields. The medical school is one of the best in the nation, as is the UCSF School of Dentistry. The school graduates over 100 DDS students annually, and UCSF takes pride in the research opportunities and clinical experiences available to its students. The school's Dental Center sees over 120,000 patient visits each year. The School of Dentistry also wins high marks for research, and it has been ranked the #1 dental school in the country based on funding from the National Institutes of Health.

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University of Florida

University of Florida
University of Florida.

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The UF College of Dentistry sits on the southern edge of the University of Florida's main campus in Gainesville. Numerous hospitals, clinics, and other health-focused programs dominate this section of the campus. The school graduates close to 100 DMD students each year, and the curriculum includes clinical rotations in the second year, followed by more advanced clinical experiences in the third and fourth years. The UF Health system has a range of dentistry facilities in the Gainesville area, including ones focused on pediatric dentistry, periodontics, general dentistry, and orthodontics.

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University of Michigan

University of Michigan School of Dentistry
University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

 AndrewHorne / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is a true powerhouse in health-related fields, and dentistry is no exception. The school recently ranked #1 in the world by the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. The school offers dental care and services throughout Michigan, and its network of affiliated clinics provides a wide range of opportunities for DDS students to gain clinical experiences. The school is home to 15 programs, 642 students, and 120 full-time faculty members.

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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC Chapel Hill School of Dentistry
UNC Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.

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UNC Chapel Hill's Adams School of Dentistry consistently ranks among the best in the country. The Doctor of Dental Surgery Program (DDS) has a curriculum designed around ACT—Advocate-Clinician-Thinker. Students are taught to advocate for their patients, provide the best clinical care, and stay mentally agile to solve problems. The school supports 50 rotation sites in North Carolina as well as two free clinics led by students. These clinics receive over 90,000 patient visits annually.

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University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania
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One of two Ivy League schools on this list, the University of Pennsylvania's School of Dental Medicine sits on the western edge of Penn's West Philadelphia campus. Established in 1878, the school has a rich history in the field of dentistry. The Philadelphia location provides students with a wide range of opportunities for clinical practice and community outreach. DMD students can also choose from numerous degree options, including dual degrees in bioethics, public health, business administration, law, and education. The school's Primary Care Unit handles roughly 22,000 patients each year.

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University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning
University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning. gam9551 / Flickr

Located on the main campus, the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine has been around since 1896. Like most schools on this list, Pitt recognizes that medical training is not restricted to the classroom. The school encourages community service and research, and dental students receive hands-on experiences at the WISER Center, with its simulation-based training facility. Pitt Dental students will also serve as patients for each other as they hone their clinical skills.

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University of Washington

The University of Washington
The University of Washington.

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One of three West Coast options on this list, the University of Washington School of Dentistry was recently ranked #2 in the world by the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy. The school is home to 390 students, including 248 DDS candidates. Students will find plenty of areas for clinical experiences, including Harborview Medical Center, Seattle Children's Hospital, and, of course, the School of Dentistry's own clinics. The school offers some opportunities that may be difficult to find elsewhere, including a mobile geriatric dental clinic, a clinic specializing in the care of persons with disabilities, and a clinic focused on patients with significant dental fears and psychological conditions.

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Grove, Allen. "Best Dental Schools in the U.S." ThoughtCo, Sep. 30, 2020, Grove, Allen. (2020, September 30). Best Dental Schools in the U.S. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Best Dental Schools in the U.S." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).