DMD vs DDS: Understanding the Differences

Dentistry is a vital component of the healthcare system, focusing on the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of oral diseases and conditions. Within this field, two primary degrees are awarded to dental professionals: Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). To the uninitiated, these designations might seem to imply different levels of education or areas of expertise. However, the truth is more nuanced. This article delves into the differences between DDS and DMD degrees, their history, educational requirements, and what they mean for patients.

Step 1: Understanding the History

The distinction between DDS and DMD degrees traces back to the mid-19th century. The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, established in 1840, was the first dental college in the world and it awarded the DDS degree. As the field of dentistry evolved, Harvard University established its dental school in 1867. Given Harvard’s tradition of awarding degrees in Latin, the Latin equivalent of Doctor of Dental Surgery, “Chirurgiae Dentium Doctoris” (CDD), did not resonate well with the university. They opted for “Doctor Medicinae Dentariae,” translating to Doctor of Dental Medicine, and thus the DMD degree was born.

Step 2: Educational Equivalence

Despite the different titles, the educational requirements for DDS and DMD degrees are essentially identical. In the United States, the curriculum for both degrees is regulated by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). This ensures that regardless of the degree awarded, all students complete a rigorous course of study that typically spans four years post-baccalaureate. The curriculum encompasses both didactic coursework in biomedical sciences and extensive clinical training in dentistry.

Year 1-2: Foundations in Biomedical Sciences

The initial two years are predominantly classroom-based, covering fundamental biomedical sciences such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, and pharmacology. Additionally, students receive introductory training in dental-specific subjects such as dental anatomy, periodontology, and prosthodontics.

Year 3-4: Clinical Experience

The latter half of the program shifts focus towards clinical experience, where students diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of licensed dental professionals. This hands-on training is crucial for developing competency in various dental procedures, from routine check-ups and cleanings to more complex treatments like root canals and restorations.

Step 3: Licensing and Practice

Upon completing either a DDS or DMD program, graduates must obtain licensure to practice dentistry. This process involves passing the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) Part I and Part II, followed by a state or regional clinical board examination. The requirements for licensure can vary slightly by state, but the distinction between DDS and DMD has no bearing on a dentist’s eligibility for licensure or scope of practice.

Step 4: Specializations and Continuing Education

Dentists holding either a DDS or DMD degree have the option to pursue specialized fields such as orthodontics, periodontics, oral surgery, or pediatric dentistry, among others. Specialization typically requires an additional 2-6 years of postgraduate education and, in some cases, passing a specialty board examination.

Continuing education is also a critical component of a dental professional’s career, ensuring they stay current with the latest research, techniques, and technologies in dental care. Both DDS and DMD dentists are required to earn continuing education credits to maintain their licensure.

Conclusion: It’s Not in the Name

When it comes to choosing a dentist, the degree designation—DDS vs. DMD—should not be a primary concern for patients. Both degrees signify that a dentist has received the requisite education and training to provide comprehensive oral healthcare. The most important factors in selecting a dentist should instead be their experience, reputation, the quality of care they provide, and how comfortable you feel in their care. Ultimately, whether a dentist holds a DDS or DMD degree, their commitment is to the health and well-being of their patients.

Priyanka Sharma
Priyanka Sharma
I am Priyanka, currently dedicating myself entirely to writing for In my role as a writer, I am committed to producing content of exceptional quality and collaborate closely with the ONH Team to ensure the delivery of outstanding material. Outside of work, my hobbies include creating humorous videos for my Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook channels.

Latest Articles