In 1867 the Harvard Dental School was founded to address a major discrepancy in the medical community – dentistry. Before this time, dentistry was regulated as more of a trade with apprentices, and Harvard recognized that oral health was connected with medicine and should be studied and researched as a major medical component. This was the very first dental school associated with a university and has the distinction of awarding the very first DMD degree.
In 1940, the school updated its name to Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) and emphasized its curriculum to include more research. Today, the school sees as its goal the education of its students for leadership in dentistry and graduates are well prepared to lead the dentistry community.
The school contains the following departments:
- Developmental Biology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
- Oral Health Policy an Epidemiology
- Oral Medicine, Infection, and Immunity
- Restorative Dentistry and Biomaterials Sciences
Years 1 and 2
Students who come here do so because of the close relationship with Harvard University and their world-renowned medical program. The first two years are spent learning side by side with medical students and everyone collaborates with each other. The dental students are also assigned places in the Academic Societies which is a very unique approach towards medical education. Here, students are broken up into groups that have their own faculty, classrooms, labs, and offices and develop mentoring relationships with each other and with faculty. Students become fully immersed in their studies and have the added benefit of gaining valuable feedback and tutoring with and from medical students.
The program also pairs each science course with a corresponding dental course to give students the maximum benefit of medical knowledge as it applies to dentistry.
Another unique aspect of this program is the tutoring. Students here just don’t attend lectures and labs, they are also required to form tutoring groups. The school strongly emphasizes group work to help students develop advanced critical thinking skills and learn to work as a team – situations that will serve them well in the future.
Setting students here apart from other dental schools, is a research project. A research course is required in the first year and students are required to complete a project with the guidance of a mentor and the Research Office.
Years 3 and 4
The third year is the beginning of clinical experience for the students. Here, small groups are heavily supervised by knowledgeable faculty as they begin hands-on training with simple tasks. Eventually, the student will transition to more complex dental situations. Groups are still emphasized, as students are expected to continue collaborating.
During the fourth year, the clinical experience continues, and students will continue to master their skills learned in the third year. Also added to the mix are a Comprehensive Core Rotation, Oral Surgery Rotation, General Dentistry Rotation, plus an externship and electives round out the education of a Harvard dentist.
Advanced Graduate Programs
A master of medical sciences (MMSc) or a doctor of medical sciences (DMSc) plus a specialty certificate are awarded to those who complete this demanding program. Students are heavily involved in research and a thesis plus a project are required for graduation.
PhD in Biological Sciences
Here, students interested in the molecular, supramolecular, cellular, and supracellular processes of dentistry have a chance to learn and complete research.
This is one of the the top dental schools in the nation, and is extremely selective. In fact, each year only a total of 35 students are admitted. The school is looking for not only academically bright students but those that are highly motivated to succeed in the field of dentistry and those that have the aptitude to become leaders. Interesting life experiences, extracurricular activities, and an interest in patient care are all qualities the admissions committee is looking for as a potential student.
Since this is the Ivy League, the school is looking for students with a bachelor’s degree with high academic grades and high DAT scores. In order to be considered, the potential student must have completed courses in biology, inorganic or general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, calculus, and English.
All applications are accepted through the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) online site. Letters of recommendation and official undergraduate transcripts are funneled through this site as well.
If the admissions committee is interested in your application, you will receive a personal invitation to travel to Boston to participate in Interview Day. There is an orientation, tour, financial aid discussion, and two interviews to get through. This is absolutely mandatory and no phone interviews will be conducted.
The school expects admitted students to fund their dental education, but in reality a high percentage of students need some form of financial aid to attend this top school. Fortunately, the dental school provides scholarships to both postdoctoral and predoctoral students. The school’s official website lists all of the available scholarships, and there are many, each with its own unique set of requirements and award amounts.
For students who need loans, the financial aid office is available to assist with the various options. Students should be prepared to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and have recent federal tax returns available. Packages will be built based on the funds available through the school and through the federal government.
The educational program takes place at the dental
school and the Harvard medical school as well as at
Harvard-affiliated institutions including Forsyth Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, Children’s
Hospital, several VA Medical Centers, other Harvard
schools, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Additional School Information
The campus houses the Harvard Dental Center, where patients can receive very affordable care as dental students gain their hands-on experience with treatments. This is a state-of-the-art center with all new modern equipment and patients can expect to receive comprehensive care.
Justine Ventimiglia graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Currently residing in a 1950’s modest ranch in Metro Detroit, she enjoys researching and writing about Mid Century Modern furniture and decor as she works on restoring her home and documenting the process.