Dental Schools in California in 2024

April 1, 2024
4 min read


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 4/1/24

Thinking of becoming a dentist in the Golden State? Well, hold on! In this guide we’ll break down everything you need to know about the best dental schools in California! 

Becoming a dentist is a long path that can lead to great rewards. Oral health and hygiene not only play a part in how healthy teeth are, but increasingly, research shows how poor dental health can lead to adverse health outcomes all over the body.

Although you may not think much when you go to your biannual check-up, your dentist is there to screen for any potential problems to keep you healthy. While we’re most familiar with typical cleaning and filling procedures, dentistry is endless in scope and hosts many opportunities.

Given that California houses some of the country's largest cities and metropolitan areas, it is no surprise that it is also home to top-notch dental schools that offer world-class education. No matter your aspirations, California dental schools can kickstart your career as a dentist in all kinds of settings.

Let's get into the best California dental schools without further delay!

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Top Dental Schools in California 2024

Each dental school in California offers a robust education with different perks. Some schools have concerted efforts to focus on rural dentistry and public health, while others pioneer leading research in advanced dental areas. 

Although your trajectory and interests may change as you progress in your academic career, all schools can train you to excel as a dentist in virtually every area. It can also be handy to check out dental school acceptance rates.

It’s also notable that California dental schools tend to have a lower acceptance rate than average, making them somewhat more competitive. While reading through the list of schools, remember your strengths and areas you have a natural affinity for, as you can use this to fine-tune your application and beat out the competition!

1. The University of Southern California Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry

Acceptance rate: 6.1%

Average GPA: 3.73

Average DAT score: 20.5

Tuition: $108,324 

The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry is one of the best dental schools in California. The private university boasts a 6.1% acceptance rate, making it very competitive, and for good reason–the school has many opportunities for research and community involvement.

For those academically oriented, you’ll love the roster of masters programs that Herman Ostrow Dentistry can provide, including Biomaterials and Digital Dentistry. Or perhaps you’re more impartial to the Craniofacial Biology PhD Program. Whatever the case, using your academic skills to develop new research is unmatched anywhere else.

At H.O., you’ll be able to be a part of a thriving history dating back to 1897. With enough dedication and hard work, you may even be added to their long list of alumni in their own Hall of Fame. The list includes the likes of Floyde E. Hogeboom, who’s credited with establishing the field of modern pediatric dentistry.

2. UCLA School of Dentistry 

Acceptance rate: 6.36%

Average GPA: 3.72

Average DAT score: 22

Tuition: $47,624 (in-state), $58,267 (out-of-state)

UCLA Dentistry has a long and established reputation for its top-notch education. The school has consistently been in the top six dental schools worldwide since 2017, according to The Shanghai Ranking. The class of 2025 has an overall GPA of 3.72 and an average DAT score of 22. The acceptance rate was 6.36%

But why is UCLA Dentistry so esteemed? In addition to its high-impact research initiatives, the school has many academic divisions and sections to be involved with, including public and population health. Using dental expertise at a population level can give dental professionals a new meaning and service.

The Community-Based Clinical Education model has fourth-year students completing a six-week clinical rotation. Using dentistry in a normal metropolitan setting is one thing, but having front-line access to different patients and communities will give up-and-coming dentists a new perspective on public health.

3. UCSF School of Dentistry

Acceptance rate: 6.4%

Average GPA: 3.66

Average DAT score: 22.8

Tuition: $44,370 (in-state), $56,615 (out-of-state)

A prestigious Californian dental school like UCSF isn’t shy of displaying its selectivity in its institutional data. Although the exact number varies yearly, students can safely assume it’s roughly 6% to 10%. To be on par with past cohorts, prospective applicants should maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.66 and a DAT of 22.8.

Concerned with oral health since 1881, the school has an impressive list of perks and facts to be aware of. Most notably, UCSF dentistry has a robust and fleshed-out research model that capitalizes on the school’s cross-campus translational research programs.

Those who have an affinity for travel and world healthcare should pay mind to the Global Oral Health Program. It’s a great opportunity that would help a lot of people! 

4. Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine

Acceptance rate: 2.5%

Average GPA: 3.24

Average DAT score: 20

Tuition: $85,657 (in-state and out-of-state)

WU CDM has some of the most stringent admissions of any school in California, with an acceptance rate of 2.5%. Most were California residents with a roughly equal gender divide.

You’ll have access to their interprofessional practice and education program at WU CDM. This is where students will learn a collaborative approach to healthcare that emphasizes the holistic value of open communication between different medical areas. The program can help students develop key skills to help them in their careers.

The DDM program's curriculum offers a unique approach where students are trained to excel in various career settings, including research and private practice. You’ll learn the best approaches for present-day healthcare rather than outdated modules. What’s more, you’ll have access to cutting-edge education and technology.

5. The University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry

Acceptance rate: 5.19%

Average GPA: 3.6

Average DAT score: 22

Tuition: $124,185

Another San Francisco school, Dugoni Dentistry, remains a top choice for many prioritizing their dental education. According to the DDS admissions FAQ, the incoming class holds a 22 DAT average with a 3.6 overall GPA. More than 2700 individuals applied for only 140 spots for one year, so the acceptance rate is approximately 5.19%.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Dugoni Dentistry is its three-year dental program. No other school in the United States has anything like it. The year-round curriculum enables students to finish a year earlier, entering the workforce in either a general or specialized area quicker than their peers at other schools.

On top of emphasizing community involvement for students, Dugoni Dentistry is a major hub for research and innovation. Some of the research conducted at the school has led to developments in dental technology, such as clear aligners like Invisalign. If you’re academically oriented and thirsting for knowledge and discovery, DD has got you covered.

6. Loma Linda University School of Dentistry

Acceptance rate: 8.4%

Average GPA: 3.57

Average DAT score: 20.7

Tuition: $82,701 

Loma Linda University is a health science university with roots in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They offer a comprehensive and holistic dental education, focusing on “whole person” care for their patients. Typically, Loma Linda Dental School receives over 1,000 applications each year, with 1,226 applicants for the class of 2027.

At LLU, you can earn a number of different degrees in dentistry, including a doctor of dental surgery degree, a bachelor of science in dental hygiene, or a master of science in a variety of dentistry-related programs. They also boast 13 clinics for students to practice their skills and get hands-on learning. 

7. California Northstate University College of Dental Medicine

Acceptance rate: N/A

Average GPA: 3.4

Average DAT score: 19

Tuition: $82,194

Located in Elkgrove, CA, California Northstate University offers a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) program as well as an education program for Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice (RDHAP) licenses. They also soon hope to offer certification programs for Allied Oral Health Professionals! 

CNSU Dental School promotes the values of scholarly work and academic freedom and strives to be a strong community of learners. Students of the DMD program will take courses on human biology systems, odontology, oral & maxillofacial studies, and behavioral & social sciences. 

How to Find More Californian Dental Schools

If you’re committed to attending dental school in California, but none of the above schools fit the bill, don’t worry! With our interactive dental school selection quiz, you can find tons of dental schools that fit your personal criteria! 

Check out the quiz down below to find the perfect dental school for you. 

Why Go to Dental School in California?

Becoming a dentist is a career that requires more schooling than most. Oftentimes, students find the academic aspect of dental medicine interesting and fail to anticipate the realities of day-to-day patient care. One of the best things about dental schools in California is the variety of different education styles they offer.

Studying dentistry in California allows you to be exposed to a variety of different dental practices, communities, and cutting-edge research. If you need more advice or closer assistance, don’t be afraid to reach out and book a free consultation with one of our dental school admission experts.

Since the schools specialize in different areas, you’re bound to find one that aligns with your interests. Becoming a dentist can be rewarding, but it’s certainly something that takes commitment and planning. Also, California is the only state where it’s possible to graduate dental school in three years instead of four.

FAQs: California Dental Schools

Still have questions or concerns regarding California dental schools? Check out our expert faqs for any remaining inquiries!

1. How Many Dental Schools Are There in California?

So, how many dental schools are there in California? Seven schools are accredited by California's Commission on Dental Education (CODA).

The two Los Angeles schools include the University of California, Los Angeles School of Dentistry, and Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.

The two San Francisco schools are the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry and the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry.

California Northstate University College of Dental Medicine in Elk Grove, Loma Linda University School of Dentistry, located in Loma Linda, and Western University of Health Sciences College of Dental Medicine, Pomona, are the three remaining California dental schools.

2. What Is the Easiest Dental School To Get Into in California?

Although all dental schools in the Golden State tend to be more competitive than other dental schools, some are easier to get into than others. For instance, California Northstate University Dental School has students who average a 3.4 GPA and 19 DAT score. It’s also important to note that average scores change year to year.

3. How Many Years Is Dental School in California?

Most dental schools in California, as well as the rest of America, last four years. However, the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry offers an accelerated three-year program. The year-round approach and curriculum ensure students are just as prepared as their four-year peers when they graduate.

Final Thoughts

Being a dentist can mean a lot of things to different people. A successful dental professional is as much a business person as a scientist, delivering medical advice to those who need it. Patients are always appreciative when they have pleasant and informative visits about their dental health.

The skills and expertise to deliver quality care take time to develop. Although you don’t need to have everything figured out when you apply to dental school, knowing what areas interest you and what you excel at can make deciding where to go and dental school interviews that much easier.

Thankfully, there are many dental schools in California to choose from. Whether you want to work as a general dentist, specialize in a more niche area, find novel research opportunities, or make a difference in public health, some schools can help you build your career as a dental professional.

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