The World’s Best Dental Schools: 2021 Edition

Richard Gawel


Students around the globe have excellent choices in dental schools, according to Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and its World University Rankings by Subject: 2021. The United States as well as Europe and Asia all were well-represented in its list of the top 60 dental schools in the world.

Sweden’s University of Gothenburg took the top slot, followed by the University of Michigan in second place, the Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam and the University of Hong Kong tied for third, and King’s College London and Tokyo Medical and Dental University both in fifth.

“Both in Sweden and internationally, the Institute has maintained a strong position for generations, and it’s great to know we’re still among the leading universities internationally,” said Peter Lingström, professor and head of the Institute of Odontology at the University of Gothenburg.

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.

University of Gothenburg

After placing seventh last year, the University of Gothenburg Institute of Odontology shot up to first place this year. It offers five-year, bachelor’s level training for dentists as well as three-year programs for dental hygienists and dental technicians. One-year supplementary training for dentists with degrees from the European Union, European Economic Area, and Switzerland also is available.

“Although we’re now in first place, we’ve been in the top 10 for several years, which testifies to stability in our research activities,” said Lingström. “All our students can take part, directly or indirectly, in the research performed, and many are also connected to different scientific areas through their master or bachelor degree projects.”

Education at the school is based on research, Lingström added, and the school’s researchers are its teachers as well. Lingström also said that the Institute’s successes rest not on individual researchers, but on several strong research groups that specialize in fundamental mechanisms and clinical issues in 13 subject areas including major oral diseases, implant research, behavioral issues, and dental anxiety.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan School of Dentistry climbed from third place last year to second in the world this year and retained its title as the best dental school in the United States. Academically speaking, the 108 enrolled students in the class of 2020 were chosen from 1,600 applications, with a 3.73 average GPA and 22 average DAT score.

“To have our school rated so highly is a testament to decades of efforts from faculty, staff, and students focused on moving our profession forward,” said dean Laurie McCauley, DDS, MS, PhD.

The school prides itself on its research efforts, noting that it leads dental schools in the United States in research funding. Domains include craniofacial, skeletal biology, and disease; cancer biology and therapeutics; tissue engineering and regenerative medicine; and clinical, population, and educational research.

“Since our school’s founding in 1875, we have strived to be leaders in the field of dentistry and dental education by embracing scientific research and scholarship to further the profession of dentistry and advance health. It is what set the school apart in those early days, and still today, as leaders in dental education,” McCauley said.

In addition to the DDS degree program, the University of Michigan offers master’s degree programs and non-degree certificates for dentists seeking specialized training. Students also can enroll in the Oral Health Sciences PhD and Masters Program, dual degree programs pairing the DDS degree with PhD and MBA degrees, and options for internationally trained dentists.

“We’re honored to be recognized again this year for the strength of our commitment to high-level scholarly work,” McCauley said.

Amsterdam & Hong Kong

The Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA) serves approximately 950 students and 33,000 patients each year. Its research concentrates on oral infections and inflammation and on oral regenerative medicine with academically robust groups centered on clinical questions. It also investigates dental education itself, exploring new teaching methods and digital tools.

The University of Hong Kong Faculty of Dentistry offers bachelor’s degrees as well as graduate and postgraduate dental education, with 10 MSc degrees, a master of dental surgery degree, and a professional Advanced Diploma. Also, its Institute of Advanced Dentistry Multi-Specialty Clinic serves patients with complex and severe oral conditions.

“We excel in research through innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration in the region and around the world,” said dean Thomas F. Flemmig, MBA, DrMedDent, DrMedDentHabil, dean of the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Dentistry, with topics including clinical and translational biomedical sciences such as artificial intelligence, craniofacial regeneration, microbiome innovation, oral cancer, and population oral health.

King’s College London

The King’s College London Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences 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.

KCL’s five-year BDS program graduates more than 150 dentists each year. Students must complete A*AA level work or its equivalent prior to admission. Coursework entails basic science related to clinical practice with an emphasis on whole patient care. Partnerships with the Guy’s, King’s College, and St. Thomas hospital programs ensure real-world training.

Also, KCL boasts three research centers: Craniofacial & Regenerative Biology; Host-Microbiome Interactions; and Oral, Clinical & Translational Sciences. More than 140 PhD students and more than 80 members of the active research staff are spread over 35 research groups, with partnerships with 39 other universities around the world.

One recent research project explored the role of bacterial folate and homocysteine in metabolism and Parkinson’s disease. Another explored the need for a global health network for oral health to influence global health policy and drive health system reform. KCL researchers also have identified novel subtypes of gingival cells and their molecular signatures in their response to periodontitis.

“Maintaining our position as the top school in the UK and in the top five institutions in the world for dentistry in these global rankings reaffirms our position as a world-class institution,” said Mike Curtis, executive dean of the faculty at the King’s College London Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences. “It reflects the dedication, commitment, and innovation of our academic and professional staff, our students, and our alumni.”

Tokyo Medical and Dental University

Established in 1928, the School of Dentistry at Tokyo Medical and Dental University aims to train global leaders who can develop cutting-edge dental care in a global and aging society. It strives to train its graduates to be creative dentists and researchers who are problem-solvers as well as leaders with a sense of humanity and mission.

Also, Tokyo Medical and Dental University is home to the largest dental hospital in Japan, with four clinical departments and 27 clinics serving 1,800 outpatients each day and 18,000 inpatients each year. It also is home to the Center for Advanced Interdisciplinary Dentistry, which relies on collaboration between departments for specialized dental treatment.

“Our dental undergraduate clinical training program begins 18 months before graduation and provides adequate clinical experience to our undergraduates,” said Minakuchi Shunsuke, director of the dental hospital. “We also offer a mandatory postgraduate clinical training program after graduation, which is conducted in collaboration with regional dental clinics.”

Nine individual research centers at the school explore stem cell and regenerative medicine, life science and bioethics, brain integration, and industrial alliances, among other topics. Recent studies include how hypoxia exposure affects jaw cartilage growth, the role of oral pathogens in esophageal cancer, and dental cement that loses its adhesiveness under ultraviolet light.

Other Schools

Other schools from the United States that made the list include:

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