The United States Again Dominates the World’s Best Dental Schools in 2020

Richard Gawel


Once again, the United States has dominated the Academic Ranking of World Universities report of the world’s best dental schools, with seven of the top 10 institutions. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, the United States accounted for eight of the top 10 schools in ShanghaiRanking’s annual list. This year’s top 10 included:

The United States also had five other schools in the top 25, including the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine (11th), the University of Southern California Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry (19th), New York University College of Dentistry (21st), the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine (22nd), and the University of Iowa College of Dentistry (25th), and 10 more in the top 50. 

ShanghaiRanking based its findings on a survey of 1,500 deans, chairs, and heads of faculties and departments of the top 100 universities across a range of subjects. Questions on the survey focused on publications in the top tier journals in dentistry, the most influential and credible awards in the profession, and researchers who have contributed the most to the field, with an emphasis on research performance and reputation.

University of Michigan

This is the fourth consecutive year that ShanghaiRanking has named the University of Michigan the top dental school in the world. Earlier this year, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) named the school the third best in the world and the top school in the United States.

“This ranking reflects directly on our outstanding faculty, researchers, and students. Dating back to its founding in 1875, our school has always understood that scientific research is the foundation of dentistry, dental education, and patient care,” said dean Laurie McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD. 

“Our research explores many important areas related to oral health, from regenerative medicine to head and neck cancer to emerging applications of genome editing in oral and craniofacial biology. It is gratifying to see the importance of our researchers’ work acknowledged in this latest international ranking,” said McCauley.

One recent study at the dental school examined the link between poor oral health and inflammatory bowel disease. Another explored how opioids could be prescribed less frequently for pain management after dental procedures. Another group of researchers at the school is investigating how head and neck tumors suppress the innate immune system.

The dental school also is a partner in the Michigan-Pittsburgh-Wyss Regenerative Medicine Resource Center, which recently received a $31.4 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to support its work in the restoration of dental, oral, and craniofacial tissues lost to disease, injury, or congenital disorders.

“We are pleased to partner with the NIDCR and the other universities in this robust and groundbreaking project,” said McCauley. “To be leading this multidisciplinary group engaged in the latest regenerative medicine research is a testament to the quality of our faculty and researchers. It illustrates our commitment to advance and lead transformative science.”

The Adams School of Dentistry

The Adams School of Dentistry saw growth over the past year, climbing from 2019’s third place showing to second in the world this year. According to the school, its students have an average DAT score of 22, and 33% of them are from under-represented minority populations. They take part in 16 educational programs in three types of clinics serving up more than $3.6 million in care during more than 90,000 patient visits each year.

Also, the school reports that it consistently ranks among the nation’s top 10 dental schools in National Institutes of Health Funding supporting its basic, translational, and clinical research. Students participate in national and international collaborative programs as well as externships and volunteer programs both in North Carolina and around the world.

In fact, students and faculty have recently won awards from Dentsply Sirona and the American Dental Hygienists’ Association as well as the International Association for Dental Research and Philips Oral Healthcare. Also, the American Association for Dental Research named James Bawden Distinguished Professor Tim Wright, DDS, MS, its 48th president last October.

Recent research topics have included teledentistry, the molecular mechanisms behind periodontal inflammation, the metabolic profiles of oral microbiomes, the biological basis of early childhood oral health, how oral stem cells could be used to improve healing elsewhere in the body, the diagnosis and treatment of developmental defects in teeth, and HPV-16 mediated oral tumorigenesis.

King’s College London

In addition to ARWU naming King’s College London third on its list, moving up from fourth last year and fifth in 2018, QS named the school first in its 2020 report. King’s College London boasts the largest dental faculty in Europe and more than a thousand dental students. The school also is home to more than 140 PhD students, more than 80 active research staff, and more than 35 research groups. Plus, it has partnerships with 39 universities around the world.

Key research areas include development, regeneration, repair, and tissue engineering; immunity, infection, and host microbiome interactions; and clinical, translational, and population health. Achievements include a Best Original Research Award from the Royal Society of Medicine and a grant from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research.

In one recent study, researchers used the Canadian Light Source to determine how filler particles interact with the resin matrix in photo-activated resin-based composites, which could lead to more durable restorations. In another, researchers examined whether the presence of a patient’s dental phobia influences the proposed care plan in addition to developing the United Kingdom’s first dedicated cognitive behavioral therapy service for such patients.

“We are delighted to have been recognized by the Academic Ranking of World Universities as one of the top three dental faculties globally and the best in Europe,” said executive dean Mike Curtis, PhD.

“Unlike many other global rankings, ARWU rankings are based upon the views of our academic peers across the world. Our achievement is therefore true testament to the standing in which we are held in by the global dental community. As ever, I wish to give huge thanks and congratulations to all of our staff, students, and alumni who collectively make our faculty a world-leading organization,” said Curtis.

The University of Washington

In addition to its clinical goal of training its students to be orofacial healthcare professionals, the University of Washington School of Dentistry touts its research programs in the biological, behavioral, social, biomedical, and clinical aspects of dental and orofacial health in addition to its dedication to improving the public’s health through outreach programs addressing minority and underserved communities.

The school hosts several clinics that provide specialized treatment, including Dental Education in Care of Persons with Disabilities, Advanced General Dentistry for medically compromised patients, its Autism Clinic, Dental Fears for patients with complex psychological conditions, and its Satellite Geriatric Dental Clinic. Also, its Center for Pediatric Dentistry hosts 16 chairs dedicated only to serving children, with general anesthesia and sedation services.

Multiple research programs are available as well. The Comprehensive Training Program in Interdisciplinary Oral Health Research covers a spectrum of areas including behavioral and clinical work as well as basic and translational science. The Center for Global Oral Health promotes collaborations in dental research and education with partners around the world.

Also, the Regional Dental Research Center provides facilities and resources for clinical research relevant to pathogenesis, diagnosis, early detection, prevention, control, and treatment of oral diseases, disorders, and dysfunctions. The Northwest/Alaska Center for Research on Oral Health Disparities focuses on the poor, minority, and rural children and adults who suffer a disproportionate share of oral disease.

This spring when COVID-19 arrived in the United States primarily in Washington, these clinics and researchers were among the first clinicians to wrestle with the disease and figure out how best to respond to it. According to the school, these personnel never stopped working despite the lack of national guidance in those early days and shared their findings globally. Now, they have seven papers about their work currently in process for publication.

“I am so happy to see our school ranked number three in the nation and number four in the world,” said dean Gary Chiodo, DMD. “These are outstanding rankings and reflect the hard work and expertise of our faculty, staff, and students. Certainly, these outcomes are due in no small part to our outstanding researchers who continue to make us one of the very best dental research institutes in the world. I am so proud to be part of this fantastic dental school.”

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