The World’s Best Dental Schools: 2020 Edition

Richard Gawel


Undergrads may want to head across the pond as they consider dental schools, according to Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and its World University Rankings by Subject: 2020. While the United States had 12 schools in its top 50, the United Kingdom had seven, including King’s College London Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences in the top slot. 

“The faculty has consistently placed first in the UK since 2017, but the 2020 ranking marks a significant new high for the faculty—indeed, one never achieved by a King’s College London faculty before,” said professor Mike Curtis, executive dean of the school.

The survey company ranks schools based on their academic reputation, drawing on the responses of nearly 95,000 academics worldwide. It also uses employer reputation, based on nearly 45,000 survey responses from global graduate employers. And, it uses research citations per paper and “h-index,” which measures the productivity and impact of published work. 


The Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam, which tied with King’s College London for second place last year, took second by itself this year. The University of Michigan School of Dentistry was third overall and the top American school, moving up from fifth place last year. The University of Hong Kong and Harvard University were fourth and fifth, respectively.

King’s College London

King’s College London boasts the largest dental faculty in Europe, more than a thousand dental students, a multitude of specialists, and diverse research. Key research areas include development, regeneration, repair, and tissue engineering; immunity, infection, and host microbiome interactions; and clinical, translational, and population health.

“This achievement recognizes the major contribution of the faculty to the research base of dentistry and the high quality of education and career preparation provided to our students under the leadership of professor Mike Curtis,” said Sir Robert Lechler, provost and senior vice president of health at King’s College London.

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 30 universities around the world. Recent 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.  

Plus, the school touts its efforts in diversity and inclusion. It has been recognized with the Athena SWAN Silver Award, which honors the commitment of institutions that promote and advance the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine in academia.

“The latest result illustrates the exceptional quality of the research and education performed at King’s Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences,” said Curtis. “Shaped by a diverse student and staff population, which adds strength to the faculty standing, this latest ranking confirms their position as a world-class institution.”

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry touts the academic strength of its students, with a 3.69 average GPA, 21 average DAT score, and six master’s degrees among the 109 enrolled students in its class of 2019. In addition to the DDS, students can pursue other dual degrees including a PhD in oral health sciences or an MBA. Graduate programs are available as well.

In 2018, the school also was one of the top 50 institutions funded by the National Institutes of Health, earning a share of the university’s $227.5 million and 482 awards. Domains include craniofacial, skeletal biology, and disease; cancer biology and therapeutics; tissue engineering and regenerative medicine; and clinical, population, and educational research.

Assistant professor Yu Leo Lei, DDS, PhD, for instance, recently uncovered how head and neck tumors associated with the human papillomavirus suppress the innate immune system. Assistant professor Noriaki Ono, DDS, PhD, has found that mature bone marrow stromal cells metamorphosize to perform like their bone-healing stem-cell cousins, but only after an injury. 

“Rankings like the annual QS survey validate the high standards and commitment to excellence that our faculty, staff, and students bring to their academic work and scientific investigations,” said dean Laurie McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD.

“From its early days, the school has broken ground with innovative and important research vital to understanding oral health and, thus, advancing oral health. We strive for our students to have that strong scientific foundation to support their clinical training, so we’re pleased that this latest ranking acknowledges the strength of our programs and research,” McCauley said.

University of California San Francisco

The University of California San Francisco School of Dentistry saw a jump after being tied for fourteenth last year to a ninth place tie with the University of Bern this year. The school cites its focus on procedural and clinical skills as well as critical thinking in its efforts to prepare students for careers in clinical practice, research, academia, the public sector, or other areas. 

“Once again, we are happy to see our rise in the QS rankings. The wide-ranging changes we have implemented in recent years are paying dividends in improved student achievement and instructional protocols,” said Michael S. Reddy, DMD, DMS, dean and professor of the school. 

Last year, the school received an anonymous $10 million gift from an alumnus that will establish an endowment dedicated to advancing faculty recruitment, retention, mentorship and development, and curriculum development. Reddy also notes the importance of preparing students to integrate oral and systemic health. 

“We are moving forward with a strategic framework that will guide not only our educational and institutional improvements, but also help advance integration with UCSF’s overall health system,” he said. “Together with our sister schools of pharmacy, medicine, and nursing, and the UCSF Graduate Division, we are proud to collectively form the nation’s preeminent university singularly focused on health and graduate education.”

University of Washington

Last year, the University of Washington School of Dentistry tied for tenth place with Tokyo Medical and Dental University. This year, it tied for twelfth with the University of Zurich. It cites its diverse student body, challenging learning environment, and cutting edge scholarship among its attributes, along with its focus on social responsibility and public health.

For example, its Center for Pediatric Dentistry features 16 chairs dedicated to serving children, with specialized services for children with autism, Down syndrome, and other special needs. Its Derouen Center for Global Oral Health, meanwhile, promotes collaboration and inclusivity in oral and craniofacial research that impacts global health.

During the school’s research day in January, topics included engineered osteoclasts that resorb necrotic bone; preventive dental care for children with special needs; inhibition of oral biofilm formation by zwitterionic nonfouling coating; and management of dental emergencies in a hospital emergency department.

Students can expect improved facilities in the years ahead as well. In December 2019, the estate of alumnus and faculty member Dr. Joseph Spinola awarded $2 million to the school. The Department of Endodontics will receive $500,000 of the gift, and the rest will fund the Campaign for Clinics to support infrastructure and the new Health Science Education Building.

“I am gratified to see that our UW School of Dentistry continues to be ranked among the elite dental schools of the United States and the world,” said Gary Chiodo, DMD, dean of the school. “Our outstanding faculty, researchers, and students continue to make this one of the best places anywhere to teach and learn dentistry.” 

Other Schools

The other schools from the United States that made the list include:

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