dentist showing how to brush properly

DDS vs. DMD: What’s the Difference?

It’s important to do your research when looking for the right dentist. Office location, areas of expertise, and convenient hours are all important factors. However, what about the letters after a dentist’s name? Is there a difference between DDS and DMD? Is one better than the other? The answer may surprise. So let’s take a closer look.

Dental School and Degree Options

Not everyone can be a dentist. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Typically, it takes eight years to earn a dental degree – four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and four years in dental school.

Just as doctors have the option to earn one of two degrees – an MD (Doctorate in Medicine) or DO (Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine) – to practice medicine, dentists also can receive one of two degrees –  a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) – to satisfy their dental degree requirements.

Although they may sound different, surprisingly, a DDS and DMD are equivalent. They are the exact same degree, just different names. This is because dentistry has only one accrediting body for all dental schools called the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). As a result, all dental schools are required to follow CODA standards for academic and clinical training. And, upon earning either a DDS or DMD, all students must pass the same National Dental Board exam to earn their license to practice.

The Reason Behind Two Degrees

So, if the degrees DDS and DMD are the same, why have two? The answer is actually quite simple, history.

The first dental school, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, was founded in 1840. Today, it is known as the University of Maryland School of Dentistry. This was the start of the Doctor of Dental Surgery or DDS degree. For 27 years, dental schools across the country followed suit and granted DDS degrees.

However, in 1967 the Harvard Dental School, which was later renamed the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, was founded. It was here that the DMD, Doctor of Dental Medicine, degree was created.

Harvard, at the time, granted all degrees in Latin, which meant Doctor of Dental Surgery would be translated to “Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris” or CDD. This obviously didn’t match the DDS acronym, and members of Harvard didn’t particularly care for CDD, so they altered the current medical degree Medicinae Doctoris to Doctoris Medicinae Dentariae or DMD.

Since the creation of the second dental degree, schools have had the option to grant either DDS or DMD degrees.

Terminology, Not Prestige

One might think that one degree is more prestigious than the other, especially with DMD being from Harvard. However, several highly prestigious and reputable schools offer both degrees. For example, UCLA and Columbia offer DDS, whereas UPenn Dental School offers DMD degrees.

When searching for a dentist, it would prove more beneficial to go by the reputation of the school they attended rather than the degree after their name. But there are several other factors that are important to keep in mind when selecting a dentist.

dentist showing dental xrays to patient

Forget the Letters After the Name; look for These When Choosing A Dentist

Now that you know the letters after your dentist’s name don’t make them any more qualified than the dentist down the street with the other letters, what should you look for when selecting your dentist?

Areas of Expertise

You want a dentist that is highly experienced in their field. Similar to medicine, where doctors can specialize in a particular area of medicine, dentists can elect to complete a specialty residency program or earn several additional hours in continuing education after dental school in a specialized field, such as oral surgery, implants, or orthodontics. Technology is constantly changing, so it’s good to find a dentist who makes continuing education a priority.

Service Options

Look to see what services they offer. For example, dentists may offer cosmetic services, family services, restorative services, and emergency dental care. You want to select someone that offers a wide range of dental services so you don’t have to go to multiple dentists where you will collect multiple bills and juggle appointments.

Positive Reviews

One of the best ways to evaluate a dentist is by reading their reviews. By reading real stories from real patients, you should be able to get a pretty good idea of who a dentist is and how they practice. Look for common themes throughout reviews. Have an open mind, as a dissatisfied patient is more apt to leave a review than a happy patient. However, if you see common elements amongst several reviews that don’t shine a good light on the dentist, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.

Receive 5-Star Care at VIPcare Dental

Don’t let the degree after a dentist’s name fool you as it comes down to terminology, not quality. DDS and DMD may not give you much to go on when selecting a dentist, but there’s plenty of other criteria you can take into consideration.

If you reside in either the Tampa or Ocala area, schedule an appointment at VIPcare Dental, and rest assured that you will always get quality and professional care.