Penn Dental Medicine

Academic Programs & Admissions

First-Year Curriculum

The first year of the curriculum introduces students to the concepts of human biology as they pertain to medicine in general and to dental medicine in particular. This includes studies relating to the principles of oral disease prevention, patient management, and physical examination. A major segment of the curriculum focuses on the structure and function of oral tissues and contiguous structures. Since Penn Dental Medicine has its own resident basic science faculty, all fundamental science courses (e.g., gross anatomy, biochemistry, histology and embryology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology) are specifically geared to the needs of dental medicine. During this time, students begin an integrated preclinical course in restorative dentistry combining several disciplines (e.g., dental anatomy and occlusion, operative dentistry and dental materials), including extensive use of the School’s Virtual Reality Laboratory. Clinical experiences begin upon entry into the DMD program and continue with each succeeding year. In the first year, students begin clinical rotations in oral medicine, periodontics, health promotion, radiology, and hospital dentistry. Additionally, first-year students are required to assist upperclassmen on the clinic floor.

Key: (L= Lecture, B = Laboratory, S = Seminar, C = Clinic, R = Rotation)

First-Year Courses Course Type


This course provides a thorough understanding of the basic principles of general biochemistry, the biochemical concepts underlying healthy nutrition and selected disease states, and comprehension, at an advanced level, of oral biochemistry.


Freshman Manual Dexterity (Virtual Reality) Laboratory

The objective of this course is to develop specific psychomotor and cognitive skills through the use of virtual-reality-based training that will enhance and augment future skills acquired in the General Restorative Dentistry course. Technical skills are developed in operative dentistry through the learning of basic intracoronal preparation with a high-speed handpiece and advanced simulation. Dental and occlusal terminology and anatomy will be applied to the theory of all basic tooth preparations. Suitable operative skills, knowledge, and ergonomics will be emphasized for the successful transition into the preclinical operative course.


Restorative Dentistry

The objective of this course is to give foundation knowledge of operative instrumentation, dental terminology, tooth anatomy, principles of cavity preparations, and basics of single tooth restorations.


Restorative Dentistry

The objective of this course is to develop the psychomotor skills necessary for basic intracoronal preparations and restorations of single teeth. The skills with a handpiece are mainly accomplished through the use of virtual reality based technology (Virtual Reality). The restorations for single teeth are taught in a traditional operative laboratory. The development and practice of these skills using a handpiece (dental drill) begins at orientation and continues throughout the academic year, where instruction for restorations is more concentrated in the Spring.



This course is divided into three segments: The histology segment of the course gives the student pertinent information regarding the microscopic characteristics of normal tissues and organs. This information provides the structural framework for normal physiological and biochemical events, as well as the conditions against which pathological changes may be contrasted. The oral histology segment gives the student a thorough understanding of the microscopic structure of teeth and contiguous tissues and thereby provides an important source for decisions about dental treatments. The embryology section gives the student an appreciation of the normal development of the major organ systems and some insight into the bases of craniofacial malformations


Dental Materials

The Dental Materials course exposes students to the foundation knowledge necessary to understand the scientific basis for the selection and application of dental materials.


Community Oral Health I: Health Promotion Introduction

Lectures, seminars, clinical sessions and community experiences are provided so that students gain the necessary knowledge and skill regarding the philosophy, modalities, rationale and evaluation of oral health promotion and disease prevention activities in community and public health. Course topics include personal wellness theory and practice; etiology, early detection and prevention of dental caries, periodontal diseases and oral cancer; and assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of community oral health programs.

Introduction to Medicine

Students will learn about the doctor/patient relationship as well as understand the background and practice the skills for identifying chief complaints and obtaining histories from volunteer patients in an outpatient setting. Students will learn and practice physical examination techniques on normal subjects and on volunteer patients in an outpatient setting.


Gross Anatomy

Students will gain an understanding of the structure and functional relation between the gross anatomy of the head and neck and clinical situations regarding patient treatment. This course is divided into four parts: osteology, myology, angiology, and neurology.


Radiological Anatomy

Students will identify normal anatomical landmarks and anomalies so that they are ready to advance to pathological diagnosis. This course will describe the common normal landmarks observed in conventional intraoral and extraoral radiographs and some of the advanced imaging techniques. In addition, few basic jawbone lesions and deviations from normal will be presented for comparison.



The purpose of this course is to integrate the foundation knowledge that students have gained in other courses such as Gross Anatomy L, Radiological Anatomy L, and Histology-Embryology L, with the systematic approach of dissection. Students will come away with a three-dimensional understanding of the human body in preparation for patient care in clinical dentistry.



The purpose of Microbiology is to provide modern information in five broad categories: a) molecular biology of prokaryotic cells as it relates to oral health. b) basic principles of immunology as they relate to infection and immunity. c) infectious diseases caused by microbial agents. d) relationship of microbes to oral health and how microbes cause caries and periodontal disease. e) basic aspects of viral infections and how they related to oral health (herpes, hepatitis B and HIV).



This course combines the study of general principles of human physiology with some emphasis on oral physiology.



Dental Auxiliary Utilization (DAU) for the freshman class is the student's first experience in patient care. Students are trained as dental assistants to their junior or senior counterparts in the Primary Care Units. Goals of the course include introduction to clinic, linkage of the first-year didactic and preclinical curriculum to clinical dentistry, understanding the use of dental auxiliaries, understanding ergonomics of dental care delivery, mastering the skills of a dental assistant, and developing appropriate patient behavioral and management skills.


This course will help students build a foundation on radiation and X-rays. This course will explain the nature of ionizing radiation, and the production and physical behavior of X-rays. The significant factors in radiation control and protection will be emphasized.


Preclinical Periodontics

This course will help students to build a foundation for periodontics. Topics covered in this course include the examination, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases affecting the periodontium. Students will study the supporting structures of the teeth, including not only the normal anatomy and physiology of these structures, but also the deviations from the norm.

The Robert Schattner Center
University of Pennsylvania
School of Dental Medicine
240 South 40th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6030