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How to Become a Dentist in Minnesota

Choosing a dental school is an important step in becoming a dentist. Many people want to attend a dental school near their home or in the state that they would like to practice in after graduation. If you live in Minnesota or the upper Midwest, you might consider applying to the University of Minnesota (UM) School of Dentistry.

Located in Minneapolis, the UM School of Dentistry is the only accredited dental school program in Minnesota. Founded in 1888, the dental school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in dental careers, operates 377 regional clinics, and serves more than 1,000 patients every month. The school is also a major center for research in oral health.

Today, about 73% of all licensed dentists in Minnesota are graduates of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry’s Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) program.

Since admission to the UM dental school is selective, to be competitive in your application, you should start planning early in your undergraduate studies to ensure you meet all requirements.


The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry admits about 100 new students each year. To qualify, you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university.

Majoring in a science field is not required, but it can help your chances of being accepted. Prerequisite courses include general biology or zoology, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physics.

The admissions committee will look at your grade point average (GPA), and you will have to explain any grades that are lower than a C. This includes any grades of D, F, incomplete, or course withdrawal. A GPA of 3.5 or above is typical for applicants.

The UM dental school streams live information sessions for students interested in applying. The school may also offer a dental school preparation course open to high school and college students to give them a feel of what dental school might be like. 

To apply to the school, you must do the following:

  • Fill out an application through the American Dental Schools Application Service (ADEA)
  • Send official transcripts of your undergraduate degree
  • Send official scores of your Dental Admissions Test
  • Provide three letters of recommendation, two from science or math professors and one from an employer or a supervisor
  • Submit an essay with a personal statement explaining why you want to study dentistry and what special achievements you have
  • Pay the processing fee

The DAT tests your knowledge of reading comprehension, general and organic chemistry, biology, perceptual ability, and quantitative reasoning. The test is scored on a scale of 1–30. The national average is between 18 and 19, but scores of accepted candidates at the UM dental school are generally higher.

The application process begins in January, one year prior to your anticipated start date. Each step has specific deadlines, which you can learn on the school’s website or by calling the admissions department.

International students may also need to submit scores on a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).

Selected candidates will interview via video conferencing with a faculty member. The school sends out acceptance notices in December.

The Doctor of Dental Surgery Program

In the four-year DDS program, students complete a combination of classes, hands-on practice, and clinical experience. If you’re admitted to the program, here’s what to expect.

Years One and Two: During the first two years, you’ll study basic science and dentistry courses such as human anatomy, biochemistry, and microbiology.

The UM dental school uses a high-tech simulation clinic to allow students to learn and perfect their skills. You can practice procedures such as filling teeth and making crowns on a computerized, life-like mannequin with a flexible mouth full of teeth.

In the second year, you’ll transition into treating actual patients.

Years Three and Four: Your final years of dental school will focus on clinical science courses and patient care. You’ll provide patient care in clinics on campus and community outreach sites in Minnesota and South Dakota.

At the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, you also have the opportunity to get involved with clubs, organizations, and student chapters of professional organizations. You may also be able to participate in research projects with faculty members.

After graduation, you must apply for a dental license.

Minnesota State Licensing Requirements

Each state establishes its own requirements for licensure. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Board of Dentistry (MBD) processes all license applications. The MBD sets professional regulations and standards for dental practices and practitioners in Minnesota.

To qualify for a license, you must do the following:

  • Graduate from a dental school accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation
  • Send official college transcripts
  • Pass the Minnesota Jurisprudence exam administered by the MDA
  • Pass required clinical board exams
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Pay the application fee

International applicants may have additional requirements.

Required State Tests

The MBD requires you to pass several tests before you can qualify for a license. The two main tests are the Commission on Dental Competency Assessments (CDCA)  ADEX and the Minnesota Jurisprudence exam.

The CDCA ADEX evaluates dental knowledge and skills. The Jurisprudence exam tests your knowledge of laws and regulations covering the practice of dentistry.

The following exams must also be passed:

  • Central Regional Dental Testing Service
  • Western Regional Examining Board
  • Commission on Dental Competency Assessments
  • Council on Interstate Testing Agency

You must complete all tests within five years of applying for a license. Canadian students may have slightly different test requirements.

Specializations in Dentistry

If you want to go into a dental specialty, you’ll need additional training. The University of Minnesota School of Dentistry offers advanced training in fields such as oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral biology, endodontics, pediatric dentistry, prosthodontics, and periodontology.

Depending on the program, you could earn a certificate, master’s degree, or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in addition to your DDS.

Opportunities after Graduation

Practicing dentists need to stay current in their fields and learn the latest dental techniques. The UM dental school offers continuing education courses and workshops throughout the year.

You can also stay in touch with your classmates and assist future dental students through the UM School of Dentistry Alumni Association.

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