How to Become a Dentist in Iowa

Dentistry is an ancient profession and is well-respected in modern times. There is a diverse range of areas one can go into with dentistry. There is dental medicine, oral surgery, dental laboratory technician and more.

The broad diversity brings about many different jobs. Formal education to the doctorate level is required for many of them. Students in dental programs can receive a Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.).

Dentistry pays well but is very demanding. The state enforces strict requirements to receive a license. In addition to state standards, each school has admission restrictions. First, a limited number of students are accepted into programs each year.

Most dental programs also require a bachelor’s degree before they admit students. After that, the national acceptance rate is roughly 50%.

Iowa State Requirements for Dentistry

Like many other states, Iowa has strict regulations on the dentistry profession. The Iowa Dental Board established the rules and laws. The most taxing and time-consuming of the requirements is formal education. Iowa only recognizes the University of Iowa College of Dentistry for dental education.

After graduation, there are more requirements, including examinations and other certifications. The requirements include:

  • Documentation of graduation from dental college
  • Certification of good standing from the dean
  • Documentation of passage of a national dental examination
  • Documentation of passage of a clinical examination
  • An explanation of any legal or administrative actions (if applicable)
  • Payment for application, fingerprint and background check fees
  • Documentation of passage of jurisprudence examination
  • A current CPR certification
  • A completed fingerprint packet for background checks

This list is semi-exhaustive. However, prudence and research are always advisable. There are also various fees involved between requesting documents and the application fee.

Iowa State Board Examinations

Each state requires successfully passing a clinical examination approved by the state board. Several organizations offer exams across the U.S., and each state carefully chooses which ones they accept. The Iowa Dental Board accepts the following clinical exams for their licensing process:

Each test has an associated fee, but the application for licensure in Iowa requires passing only one of these.

University of Iowa College of Dentistry

The University of Iowa College of Dentistry (UICD) is the only university in the state for dentistry. The school is well-known and very competitive. In 2021, the school accepted only 80 students of the roughly 800 that applied, giving it a 10% admission rate. UICD offers a D.D.S. and many other supplemental certifications and specializations.

UICD’s Dental Admission Test (DAT) score average was 22, and the total GPA was 3.64. Their program is highly competitive and does not offer any advantages to current UI students.

This is great for students applying from across the country. The cost for out-of-state students is high, though. In-state students will pay between $45,000 and $78,000 a year. Out-of-state students will pay between $70,000 and $103,000 a year.

The UICD D.D.S. program is holistic and completed in just four years. The program covers the clinical aspects, ethical practices and management skills. The first two years are heavily focused on the foundational skills of dentistry, exposure to clinical settings and dental knowledge.

The second two focus on experience in diverse clinical settings and more skilled practices with patients. Students will spend time at off-site locations gaining valuable knowledge in various scenarios and environments. They believe each element of the profession is connected, and the school teaches with that in mind.

University of Iowa College of Dentistry D.D.S. Program Requirements

Being one of only 67 dental universities in the U.S., UICD is highly competitive and has strict requirements for admissions.

First, applicants must have completed 90 prerequisite hours from an accredited university. This does not have to be from UI. However, students who take their pre-dentistry course will be guaranteed to meet the requirements.

After checking with admissions and confirming you meet the prerequisites, you may apply. You can do the application through the American Dental Education Association Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (ADEA AADSAS) Starting on June 1st. Applicants must submit official transcripts from all institutions they attended previously, Dental Admission Test (DAT) scores and a minimum of three letters of recommendation, preferably from dentists.

If an applicant’s AADSAS application is accepted, UI will request them to fill out a supplemental application to UI and then applicants will be scheduled for an interview. The school begins accepting applicants on December 1st and requires a $500 fee upon notification of acceptance. The process can take between six and eight months. 

Post-Graduation Career Options

Graduates from the UICD who have received their license have access to many job opportunities. Dentists are always in demand because people always need dental work. The demand offers great career longevity. The many different fields and specializations also offer excellent vertical career movement. 

A dentist can start as a general practitioner, who handles diagnosis, examination and general damage to teeth and gums. These dentists can work in the public sector or start a private practice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average general dentist in Iowa earned roughly $183,710 a year as of May 2021. 

Dentists can specialize during their careers or at university to earn significantly more. They will also see higher demand and more competitive pay due to a shortage of such specialists. Some specializations include Orthodontists, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons and Prosthodontists. These fields earn upwards of $261,000 a year on average. 

Such specialized dentists must learn from somewhere. So, another career option is teaching. A dentist can choose to work for prestigious universities like IU and others as both a dentist and professor. This allows them the freedom to continue their practice, train future generations, and work on furthering their field. Professors have a significant advantage in research thanks to access to additional funding. 

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