Should I Be Worried? Learning the Difference Between DDS and DMD

You’ve been looking for a new dentist. You finally found someone you like. The doctor and staff were friendly, the office was clean, and your kids actually let the doctor look at their teeth! What a good find! You decide to go home and do some more research. You had heard that all good dentists had their DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degrees. And guess what? This doctor has a DDS degree. What exactly does that mean?

First off, don’t panic! According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the DDS and DMD degrees are one in the same. Depending on the University they may award a:

  • Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or a 
  • Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS).

Either way, the dentist has had 3 specific requirements to complete in order to obtain their degree:

  • Educational
  • Written
  • Clinical

After obtaining their degree, every dentist has a mandatory amount of continued education (CE) credits that have to be completed every year by the ADA to ensure that all dentists are current with medical, scientific, and clinical advancements. If these credits are not acquired, the dentist will those their license.

Then why the confusion you might ask? The reason for the two different degrees dates back to 1867 when Harvard University decided to add a dental program to their already prestigious school. It is the Harvard way to grant degrees written in Latin and the previously named degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery translated to “Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris” which Harvard didn’t find appealing. After consulting a Latin scholar, they decided to add the Latin word for “dental” to the beginning of the already existing Medical Doctor (MD) degree, giving us “Dentariae Medicinae Doctor” or DMD.

So, if the dentist you have seen has either a DMD or DDS after their name, they have passed all their boards and exams and had the same curriculum as required by the ADA, it is merely dependent on what school they graduated from. Take a deep breath, your teeth are in good hands!

Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist about their degree and/or education, either. A good dentist knows that patient comfort goes beyond whether something hurts or not. Knowing where your dentist went to school and that he or she is current in all of their Continuing Education gives you peace of mind.

For more information about Dentistry, visit the American Dental Association at