The US Dominates the ARWU’s Best Dental Schools for 2018

Richard Gawel


American undergrads looking for a world-class dental education won’t have to travel far, according to ShanghaiRanking’s 2018 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). The United States is home to 13 of the top 25 dental schools, and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Washington, and Harvard University took first through fourth place, respectively.

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.

The University of Michigan

This is the second strong showing for the University of Michigan School of Dentistry this year. In March, Quacquarelli Symonds rated it first in the United States and third in the world. The school also received $16.3 million from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in fiscal 2017, which is more than any other dental institution in the country. Recent projects have focused on childhood caries prevention, head and neck cancer, and regenerating tissue lost to disease, injury, or congenital disorders. 

In fact, the school is launching its Dental Postgraduate Program in Regenerative Dentistry this fall. The 12-month program will focus on biomaterials and tissue engineering applied to dental, oral, and craniofacial tissue regeneration. Students will receive in-depth didactic and research training on the principles of tissue engineering and its applications in the field. A full-year research project will provide hands-on experience as well. But it will be a competitive program, with only four students accepted each year. 

Also this fall, construction will begin on a major renovation and addition. The $140 million project will update and expand its facilities for teaching dental students, serving patients from around Michigan, and conducting world-class scientific research designed to advance the dental profession, the school reports. About half the existing facility will be renovated, and about 48,000 square feet will be added. Several major phases will allow the school to continue its educational, scientific, and clinical mission during the work, with completion expected in 2022.

“We’re obviously pleased to be rated as the top dental school in the world,” said Laurie McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD, dean of the school. “The school’s dedication to excellence and leadership in dentistry, dental education, and research is a tradition that dates to the early days after our founding in 1875. The extraordinary commitment of our faculty, students, and researchers is on display in the clinics, labs, and classrooms of our school every day. It’s gratifying to see that acknowledged by these independent rankings.” 

The University of Washington

The University of Washington School of Dentistry has focused on rebooting its curriculum around “the Dentist of the Future.” Nine threads encompass the core competencies of general dentistry, including the foundations of human health and disease, dental and maxillofacial surgery, medical management of the dental patient, practice management, health promotion and disease prevention and communication, ethics and professionalism, critical thinking, care of diverse populations, and restoration of form and function. 

“Our faculty members and staff have worked very hard over recent years to thoroughly revamp the curriculum,” said Gordon, DDS, MS, the school’s associate dean of academic affairs. “The school aims to lead the world in producing dental graduates who are not only technically excellent but also have enhanced medical, interprofessional, and critical thinking skills necessary for the changing world of dentistry.”

The school offers an integrated systems-based biomedical foundations curriculum, a third-year clerkship skills program, and a comprehensive-care fourth-year program. Students in the third-year clerkship program serve in a series of six-week and 12-week clinical rotations designed to provide a more intensive exposure to the core skills of general dentistry, while the fourth-year clinical program duplicates the wide-ranging experience of general dental practice. 

The school believes this emphasis has paid off, as its fourth-year students recorded aggregate scores on the clinical proficiency portion of the national exam that placed them in the nation’s top two or three classes in 2017 and 2018. Also, predoctoral students can choose a research track that trains them in requisite skills and places them in faculty labs, where they can complete a research project. Community service is emphasized as well, with all predoctoral students serving in community clinics from five weeks to five months.  

The Top 25 

The top 25 dental schools in the world, according to ShanghaiRanking, include:

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