Dentist-Scientist (DDS/PhD) Program

The University of Minnesota's DDS/PhD program will prepare you to meet the challenges of interdisciplinary research and advancing technologies.

Why a DDS/PhD?

Careers in craniofacial, dental, or oral health research are broadly diverse and exciting. To improve the human condition, researchers now need to integrate techniques from multiple disciplines to develop new knowledge from their research and educate future care providers and researchers at the cutting edge of science. Graduating with a DDS and a PhD will position you for a career in academia, industry, and government research institutes, as well as clinical practice. Academic dentists, who conduct research, treat patients, and teach courses regularly, are in short supply in the U.S.; job prospects are good.

Learn how to apply

How it works

The University of Minnesota's DDS/PhD program requires 8 years. We strongly suggest students complete 4 years of PhD study before beginning DDS coursework; other options may be possible. Depending on research emphasis, some basic science courses in the DDS curriculum may be waived, allowing time in years 5-8 for completion of PhD requirements and staying abreast of new developments. Students may defend and receive the PhD degree any time after PhD requirements are completed. If the PhD is completed prior to DDS graduation, students will find a new lab to learn additional techniques.

DDS/PhD trainees are encouraged to enroll in the PhD program in Oral Biology.  Other PhD programs may be possible, but not guaranteed.  The PhD in Oral Biology is designed to provide students who seek academic and research careers with a broad understanding of the development, structure, function, and pathology of the orofacial region. Additionally, the PhD program in Oral Biology provides more flexibility in scheduling milestones such as preliminary exams than found in most other graduate programs at the University of Minnesota. The intent of the Oral Biology program is to train scientists for research and teaching careers. A complementary minor in another field is required (molecular biology, genetics, neuroscience, etc.).

The DDS program requires 4 years of study. In general, the first two years emphasize preclinical courses including basic science and technical dental courses, analysis of dental literature, and ethics and management of practice. The remaining years are spent in clinical courses, working directly with patients. DDS/PhD students will have some protected research time during the clinical years.

Financial support

The Graduate Program in Oral Biology attains funding for all admitted PhD students. Sources include competitive fellowships, research assistantships, or external scholarships.

The Minnesota Craniofacial Research Training (MinnCResT) Program has limited number of fellowships specifically for DDS/PhD students. A MinnCResT fellowship provides full tuition plus stipends, health insurance, research expenses, and travel funds for up to 6 years of study. The fellowships are available from an NIH training grant and are only available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. Learn more at

How do I apply?

DDS/PhD applicants complete 2 applications: one to the School of Dentistry and one to the Graduate School. Applicants are encouraged to apply to both programs in the same admissions cycle (year). Applications are evaluated separately by each program.

Apply to both programs by October 15, 2019 for Fall 2020 enrollment.

The DDS deadline comes first each year; submit that application before preparing the PhD application. The DDS program admits students on a rolling basis so it is in your best interest to apply early, early, early.  Waiting until the deadline to submit the DDS application is not a good idea at all. The Oral Biology program evaluates all submitted applications after its application deadline passes. Early application for the PhD is not necessarily beneficial or advantageous.

Applicants for the PhD in Oral Biology must have a bachelor’s (BA or BS) degree or equivalent. Students applying to the DDS degree in the same admissions cycle may submit a recent DAT score in lieu of the GRE.  Some applicants must also submit TOEFL or IELTS scores as part of the application. Application forms and instructions are online at

DDS applications are submitted through the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADAS) at  Applicants also submit a supplemental application directly to the University of Minnesota; see Applicants must take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and some applicants may also be required to submit a TOEFL score.


How many students enroll in the dual program each year?
We accept 1 or 2 DDS/PhD dual students per year. This 8-year program is intense and not for everyone. We want to make sure that we accept students with a high likelihood of success and limit our enrollees so we can provide one-on-one support throughout the program.
Do you accept international students? Non-Minnesota residents? Does it help to be a Minnesota resident?
Yes, we accept international students and non-Minnesota residents. Residency status does not play a significant role in the dual degree admissions. That said, DDS and PhD applications are evaluated separately. Each program reviews students on its own standards and there is no negotiating between the 2 programs. If you are accepted to one program and not the other, you are free to enroll in the program that accepted you. If you are accepted to both programs, then we automatically put you into our DDS/PhD program and supports.
Could I begin in the DDS program? Can I apply to the PhD program after starting dental school? Can I apply to the DDS program after starting graduate school?
Yes, it is possible to start in the DDS program and move to the PhD program. Contact the Oral Biology staff to discuss this option in detail. Students may apply to the other program after beginning in one of them, but current enrollments do not influence the application process or admissions decisions.

Our Curriculum


DDS/PhD trainees are encouraged to enroll in the PhD program in Oral Biology; other graduate programs may be possible. A cross-disciplinary academic minor is also required in fields such as molecular biology, genetics, or neuroscience. Oral Biology offers multidisciplinary training in the biology of oral tissues under the direction of a faculty with diverse backgrounds and research interests. The curriculum provides a broad understanding of the orofacial region, its development (including aging), structure, function, and pathology. The intent of the program is to train scientists who will be equipped to enter research and teaching careers.

Research facilities are excellent, with well-equipped laboratories in a modern building. The program is housed in the School of Dentistry, which is part of a major health sciences complex. There is an extensive tissue culture facility and laboratories for salivary chemistry, cell biology and immunology, mineralized tissue studies, microbiology, neuroscience, biomaterials, and biophysics of oral function. Excellent animal facilities are available. A large patient population is available for a variety of clinical studies.

Learn more at Oral Biology


The DDS program requires 4 years of study. The curriculum includes basic sciences and dentistry courses including management and supervision of dental practice, jurisprudence and ethics. Elective experiences are also available.

The first year coursework includes basic science courses on normal human tissues, including the molecular, cellular, and organ systems. Technical dental courses, analysis of dental literature, and ethical training applicable to the profession begin during the first year. In the second year, basic science courses focus on pathology. Technical dental courses culminate in treating patients. Clinical science courses occupy much of the third year. Correlations among basic, behavioral and clinical sciences are established in the clinical setting. Students model their first dental practice and provide comprehensive patient care. In the fourth year, students undertake additional clinical training and are exposed to advanced techniques and alternative treatments.

Learn more at DDS Program

Financial Support

An offer of admission to the Oral Biology Graduate Program does not guarantee financial support. Some competitive fellowships, research grant assistantships, or teaching assistantships may be available.

MinnCResT Program

Funding for the DDS/PhD program may be available through the Minnesota Craniofacial Research Training (MinnCResT) Program. A MinnCResT Fellowship provides full tuition plus stipends, health insurance, research expenses, and travel funds for up to 6 years of DDS/PhD study. The MinnCResT Program also offers unique career development opportunities including monthly seminars and roundtable discussions, an industry internship program, and interdisciplinary research opportunities. Students must apply directly to the MinnCResT Program for fellowship support; learn more at MinnCResT.

The MinnCResT Program is supported by a training grant (T90) from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.