What Is the Math Requirement for Dentists?

by Gale Thompson

Dentistry is a precise, challenging field that improves the health and appearance of the teeth and mouth. Dentists are also important advocates of computer and technology research. Becoming a dentist generally requires at least four years of postgraduate education at an accredited dental school. A foundation in biology and chemistry is required, but math courses are also beneficial to a dentist's career. Requirements vary by program and type of admission exam but generally include calculus and statistics.

College Algebra

Depending on math placement upon undergraduate admission, college algebra will often be a student's first math course. The course is an introduction to algebraic functions, equalities and inequalities and is a minimum requirement for dental schools. The American Dental Association specifically notes that algebraic concepts including exponential notation, absolute value and ratios and proportions appear on the Dental Admission Test (DAT). Although most schools require more advanced coursework, college algebra is almost always a prerequisite.

Precalculus and Trigonometry

Before taking calculus, students must have a thorough foundation in functions and trigonometry. Many of the questions on the DAT will cover concepts taught up through precalculus, such as trigonometry, real and complex numbers, sequences and series, and solving inequalities and equations. Depending on the student's high school math performance, he may be able to test out of precalculus and move directly into calculus. Additionally, students who are placed into calculus but still require some more review may choose to take a semester of precalculus.


Calculus, the study of change, is strongly recommended for students applying to dental school. Making precise measurements based on constantly changing data is important in dental work. While advanced mathematics courses aren't a prerequisite at certain dental schools, Boston University's School of Dental Medicine notes that fulfilling at least two semesters of upper-level mathematics will ensure a competitive application. The Health Professions program at Dartmouth recommends that these two terms be calculus and statistics. In addition, many dental students take courses in physics, which often require a course in calculus.


Statistics is strongly recommended for students applying to dental school. Some schools may take Medical College Admission Test scores (MCAT) in addition to DAT scores, and the MCAT features sections grounded in data-based and statistical reasoning. Additionally, more and more dental schools are requiring statistics courses for admission. The basic statistical concepts, including the manipulation and collection of observational data, are helpful for advanced science coursework that involves experimentation. In addition, the ADA states that probability and statistics will be on the DAT.

Photo Credits

  • Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

About the Author

Gale Marie Thompson's work has been published in "Denver Quarterly," "Los Angeles Review" and "Best New Poets 2012." Thompson holds a BA in English and creative writing from the College of Charleston, a MFA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is working on a PhD at the University of Georgia.