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Technical Standards

Competencies for Advancement and Graduation

Technical Standards

Upon admission, admitted students will affirm that they have reviewed and agree that they are capable of meeting the School of Dentistry’s technical standards with or without accommodations. Below are the essential abilities required for completion of the DDS degree.


Dentistry is the art and science of maintaining the health of the teeth and surrounding oral structures. It involves physical evaluation of patients, prevention of oral and dental diseases, disease diagnosis, and therapy. The UCSF School of Dentistry intends for its graduates to become competent and compassionate dentists who are capable of meeting all requirements for licensure. In order to successfully complete the DDS degree, participate in all necessary aspects of dental training, and meet licensing requirements, a student must possess a minimum of certain essential physical and cognitive and emotional abilities. That an individual student may intend to practice only a narrow aspect of clinical dentistry, or to pursue a non-clinical career, does not alter the requirement that all dental students must complete and demonstrate competency in the entire curriculum. For the purposes of this document and unless otherwise defined, the term "candidate" refers to candidates for admission to the dental school as well as enrolled dental students who are candidates for promotion and graduation.

The School of Dentistry has an ethical and professional responsibility for the safety of patients with whom students and graduates will come in contact. Although students learn and work under the supervision of the faculty, students interact with patients throughout their dental school education. Therefore, patient safety and well-being are major determinants for establishing requirements involving the physical, cognitive, and emotional abilities of candidates for admission, promotion, and graduation. The essential abilities and characteristics described herein are also referred to as technical standards. They are described below in several broad categories including: observation communication, motor function, and social and behavioral skills.


I. Observation

Candidates must be able to observe demonstrations and participate in experiments of science, including but not limited to such things as dissection of cadavers; examination of specimens in anatomy, pathology, and neuroanatomy laboratories; and microscopic study of microorganisms and tissues in normal and pathologic states. Candidates must be able to accurately observe patients and assess findings. They must be able to obtain a medical history and perform a physical evaluation and comprehensive oral evaluation in order to integrate findings based on these observations and to develop an appropriate diagnostic and treatment plan. These skills require the use of vision, hearing, and touch or the functional equivalent.

II. Communication

Candidates must be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with patients, their families, and members of the health care team. They must be able to obtain a medical history in a culturally competent manner, interpret non-verbal aspects of communication, and establish therapeutic relationships with patients. Candidates must be able to record information accurately and clearly; and communicate effectively in English with other health care professionals in a variety of patient settings.

III. Motor Function

Candidates must possess the capacity to perform procedures requiring the use of fine motor skills. They must be able to respond to clinical situations in a timely manner and provide general and emergency dental care. Such activities require functional physical mobility and coordination of both gross and fine motor skills. They must adhere to universal infection protocols and meet established safety standards applicable to inpatient and outpatient settings and other clinical activities.

IV. Behavioral and Social Attributes

Candidates must demonstrate the maturity and emotional stability required for full use of their intellectual abilities. They must be able to demonstrate high emotional intelligence (i.e. self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills). They must accept responsibility for learning, exercising good judgment, and promptly completing all responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients. They must understand the legal and ethical aspects of the practice of dentistry and function within both the law and ethical standards of the dental profession. Candidates must be able to interact with patients, their families, and health care personnel in a courteous, professional, and respectful manner. They must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads to function effectively under stress, and to display flexibility and adaptability to changing environments. Candidates must be able to contribute to collaborative, constructive learning environments; accept constructive feedback from others; and take personal responsibility for making appropriate positive changes.