DDS vs DMD: What Is The Difference?

When you visit your dentist, you may notice the letters "DDS" or "DMD" after their name. What do these letters mean, and is one better than the other? Here's what you need to know.


DDS and DMD are degrees awarded to dentists. DDS means Doctor of Dental Surgery. DMD can mean either Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine. While those titles may sound different, the American Dental Association (ADA)explains that they refer to the same degrees. Some universities award dental graduates with a DDS, while others award a DMD. Both degrees have the same curriculum requirements.

Why are there two names for the same degree? The reason requires a bit of a history lesson, reports Oregon Health and Science University (OSHU). Back in 1893, the Baltimore College of Medicine started granting the first Doctors of Dental Surgery (DDS) degrees. A short time later, Harvard University started its own dental school. Harvard decided to rename the degree a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). This minor disagreement about naming is why there are now two names for the same degree. OSHU reports that about one-third of American dental schools issue DMD degrees.

DDS vs DMD: Education

No matter what a university decides to call its dental degree, one thing is for sure: To become a general dentist, extensive education is required. First, students generally need a four-year undergraduate education. Afterward, they go to dental school for another four years of educational and clinical and dental laboratory training.

The first two years of dental school are similar to the first two years of medical school. Students study biochemistry, pathology, immunology and other similar courses. The second two years are focused on clinical and laboratory practice.

After graduating with a DDS or DMD degree, dentists have to pass rigorous examinations. In the United States, dentists must pass the National Board Dental Examinations, a national written exam. They also have to pass a state exam to be licensed to practice there.

With such extensive education and examination requirements, patients can rest assured that any dentist with a DDS or DMD degree is well qualified.

Education After a DDS or DMD

Most dentists are general dentists. However, some choose to specialize in a certain area of dentistry after earning a DDS or DMD degree. As many as six years of additional education can be required to become a specialist. The ADA explains that there are nine dental specialties:

  1. Dental public health
  2. Endodontics
  3. Oral and maxillofacial pathology
  4. Oral and maxillofacial radiology
  5. Oral and maxillofacial surgery
  6. Orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics
  7. Pediatric dentistry
  8. Periodontics
  9. Prosthodontics

Dentists are highly educated medical professionals, whether they have a DDS vs DMD after their name. To keep your teeth and gums healthy, be sure to visit your dentist regularly. Twice a year is a good place to start, though your dentist may recommend a different frequency. In between visits, remember to brush twice a day and floss once daily. Together, you and your dentist can keep your mouth in tip-top shape.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

More Articles You May Like

What To Expect During a DENTAL VISIT

On your first visit, your dentist will take a full health history. On follow-up visits, if your health status has changed, make sure to tell your dentist. Here’s what you can expect during most trips to the dentist.

  • A Thorough Cleaning – a dental hygienist or dentist will scrape along and below the gum line to remove built-up plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease, cavities, bad breath and other problems. Then he or she will polish and floss your teeth.

  • A Full Dental Examination – your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth, gums and mouth, looking for signs of disease or other problems.

  • X-Rays – X-rays can diagnose problems otherwise unnoticed, such as damage to jawbones, impacted teeth, abscesses, cysts or tumors, and decay between the teeth.