What is the difference between a DDS and DMD dentist?

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Dentists are just like other medical professionals in that they need to graduate from an accredited school and pass rigorous testing before they given the credential of a DDS or DMD and are allowed to practice dentistry. You may notice when you’re looking for a dental care provider that some dentists that are in your network have a DDS after their name and some have a DMD. Even though the titles are different both types of dentists are fully qualified to give you and your family dental care.

If you’re looking for a new general dentist, you may be wondering which qualifications are ideal and what is the difference between a DDS and a DMD dentist. According to the American Dental Association, a DDS and a DMD are the same. If you have wondered if DMD vs DDS makes a difference when choosing a dentist the answer is that it doesn’t make a difference.

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What is a DMD? According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a DDS and a DMD are the same. DDS stands for a Doctor of Dental Surgery, whereas DMD stands for a Doctor of Dental Medicine. People who have a DDS and people who have a DMD are both educated in dentistry and underwent the same education¹. In some areas DMD and DDS are used interchangeably because they are so similar.

The main difference between the two titles is the name. Otherwise, DDS and DMD functionally mean the same thing. The difference between a DDS and DMD dentist is the title their school chose for the degree program—not the coursework itself. The two types of doctors have to follow the same rigorous schooling in order to get their degrees. Both DDS and DMD are equally qualified for the same job and both can take great care of your mouth².

DDS and DMD degrees

In order to get a degree in dentistry, DDS or DMD degree, a student has to undergo four years of undergraduate studies followed by four more years at an accredited dental school. (Note: in some cases, only three years of undergraduate studies are needed if a student is in an accelerated program.) Whether someone becomes a DDS dentist or a DMD dentist is entirely up to what title their dental school traditionally puts on degrees. After receiving one of the aforementioned dental degrees, aspiring dentists must then pass a national written exam and a state or regional clinical licensing exam in order to practice. Dentists must then meet continuing education requirements for the remainder of their careers to keep their licenses in good standing³.

I’ve only ever heard of DDS? How did DMD come about?

If you’ve only ever heard of a DDS you’re not alone. DDS is the more common degree title. DDS was the standard title for doctors of dentistry first and the additional title is because of Harvard University. When Harvard added a dental school in 1867, it had a tradition of putting its degree titles in Latin. However, the Latin translation of Doctor of Dental Surgery was “Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris” or CDD. Harvard didn’t think CDD sounded impressive enough, so it created the DMD, Dentariae Medicinae Doctoris⁴.

Other schools have since mirrored Harvard’s degree name, leading to a mix of dentists that are DDSs and DMDs. According to the ADA, “Universities have the prerogative to determine what degree is awarded. Both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)”⁵.

Since both titles mean that the person has gone through the course of study recommended by the governing dental board it doesn’t matter if you choose a dentist that has a DDS after their name or a DMD. Either way you can trust that your dental care provider has the training and education to take care of you and your family.

What can a DDS and a DMD do?

Doctors of Dental Surgery, which is the DDS meaning, and Doctors of Dental Medicine are trained in the following dental procedures and specialties:⁶

  • Diagnosing oral diseases

  • Treating oral diseases

  • Promoting oral health

  • Disease prevention

  • X-ray and diagnostic testing and analysis

  • Administering and monitoring anesthetics

  • Filling cavities

  • Performing oral surgery on the teeth, bone and soft tissues of the oral cavity

These degrees account for standard dental practice. To become a dental specialist, such as an orthodontist, periodontist, or oral and maxillofacial surgeon, additional post-graduate training is required⁷. Just like in the health care industry the amount of additional schooling that a dentist needs to be certified in a specialty depends largely on the specialty that they choose.

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Dental specialties

Dental specialties beyond DDS and DMD require additional education and training. You can sometimes tell when a DDS or DMD has specialized training by the letters that will be indicated after their name in addition to DDS. In other cases, specialties or programs may award certificates that don’t come with additional degree letters. This is highly dependent on the program that a specialist attends⁸.

Some of these dental specialties (and their corresponding requirements) are:

  • Pediatric dentistry - Requires 25 months of additional schooling after dental school. Pediatric dentists specialize in the oral health of children from infancy through adolescence.

  • Endodontics - Requires 26 months of additional schooling after dental school. Endodontics focuses on the health of dental pulp/the soft core of the teeth. People often visit endodontic specialists for procedures like root canals.

  • Periodontics - Requires 35 months of additional schooling after dental school. Periodontal dentists specialize in treating gum diseases.

  • Orthodontics - Typically requires a multi-year residency after dental school, specializes in treating crooked teeth, improper bites and misaligned jaws. Orthodontists can administer and monitor braces.

  • Prosthodontics - Typically requires 32 months of additional schooling after dental school. Prosthodontic specialists help patients restore natural teeth or replace missing teeth and oral structures with artificial solutions like dentures.

  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery, pathology, and radiology - All require multiple years of additional schooling after dental school. The length of training oral and maxillofacial specialists undergo will depend on the specialty itself. Surgeons, handle surgeries of the mouth and jaw and undergo the lengthiest schooling. Pathologists study diseases of the teeth, mouth and surrounding regions. Radiologists use imaging like X-rays to diagnose and manage oral diseases and disorders.

When it comes to standard dental work and finding a dentist to see, both a DDS and a DMD are trained and must be board-certified in order to practice. Actually, both DDS and DMD dentists must pass a series of exams in order to be certified dental professionals. The Join Commission on National Dental Examinations oversees the administration of the exams that both dentists and dental hygienists have to pass and sets the standards that must be met before accreditation can be given⁹.

DDS Vs DMD and insights

Learning more about your dental care provider’s credentials and what makes a dentist a good dentist is important. It’s just as important as choosing the right dental insurance. The right dental care provider combined with the right dental insurance coverage may give you and your family the right dental care. Guardian Direct® wants to help you make informed choices when it comes to dental care. That’s why we have created a large online library of information related to dental care and dental insurance. When you have the information and tools that you need to make informed choices you’ll be better prepared to make the best decisions for you and your family.

If you’re searching for a dentist that has a DDS because that is important to you then you can our Find A Dentist tool to find the right provider for you. You can search for “DDS near me” and get a list of certified dentists within your zip code who are in the Guardian Direct network. Use our library to learn more different kinds of dental insurance plans, or to find out the best home dental care tips to help keep your teeth and mouth healthy. And if you have questions about Guardian Direct dental insurance you can call one of our customer service staff and get the answers to any questions you have finding dental insurance.

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment, or medical advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed reliable, please note that individual situations can vary, therefore the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

Links to external sites are provided for your convenience in locating related information and services. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, and employees expressly disclaim any responsibility for and do not maintain, control, recommend, or endorse third-party sites, organizations, products, or services and make no representation as to the completeness, suitability, or quality thereof.


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  1. https://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/general-dentistry (Last accessed September 2021)

  2. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/dds-dmd (Last accessed September 2021)

  3. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/d/dds-dmd (Last accessed September 2021)

  4. https://www.prospectivedoctor.com/difference-between-dds-and-dmd/ (Last accessed September 2021)

  5. https://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/general-dentistry (Last accessed September 2021)

  6. https://www.ada.org/en/about-the-ada/dentists-doctors-of-oral-health (Last accessed September 2021)

  7. https://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/careers-in-dentistry/general-dentistry (Last accessed September 2021)

  8. https://www.8ddsny.org/for-the-public/what-do-dentists-do (Last accessed September 2021)

  9. https://www.ada.org/en/education-careers/national-board-dental-examinations (Last accessed September 2021)