The Difference Between a DDS & DMD Dentist | Guardian Direct

Dental Health

What is the difference between a DDS and DMD dentist?

According to the American Dental Association, a DDS and a DMD are the same.

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.

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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 education.¹

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 mouth.²

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 standing.³

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 Doctoris.⁴

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

What can a DDS and a DMD do?

Doctors of Dental Surgery 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 required.⁷

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 attends.⁸

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.


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  8. (Last accessed March 2020)

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.(exp.03/22)