Ask The Warrior Dentist: What Is The Difference Between A DDS And A DMD?Ask The Warrior Dentist: What Is The Difference Between A DDS And A DMD?

Dentists, like other doctors or people who have earned a PhD degree in their career field will have abbreviations after their name to show their designation or education. But people often wonder what the meaning of DDS and DMD are, and if there are real differences in these two types of doctors of dentistry. Even people who are in the medical field sometimes have trouble explaining why some dentists are designated with DDS and others with DMD, and why some dentistry school programs confer a DDS degree while others give their dentistry grads a DMD diploma instead.

First of all, the DDS initials stand for Doctor of Dental Surgery, whereas the DMD abbreviation means Doctor of Dental Medicine. Also the training and education required to earn either of these degrees is almost identical, but some dental schools choose the DDS while others prefer to use DMD. The differences began a long time ago, and a brief look into dentistry history can help us to more easily sort out this confusing business of dentist titles.

When the profession of dentistry began centuries ago, one type of person would specialize in surgery and treatment of teeth using tools and medical instruments, while another branch of dentistry was devoted to the use of pharmacology and medicines. So when the DDS designation was first used it applied to those who were surgeons. Back in those days there were few schools of dentistry, and those who studied the profession went to small independent schools that are much like today's trade schools. If you wanted to be a dentist you could go to one of those institutions and earn your DDS diploma. But as the field of dentistry grew, expanded, and matured, mainstream universities took notice and began to incorporate dentistry into their studies. Harvard opened a dental school in the late 1800s and decided to award its graduates the DMD degree, and that is where that alternative abbreviation began. Soon afterwards, a university in Oregon opened another dental college and it followed in the footsteps of Harvard by also using the DMD designation to distinguish its graduates from those who went to other dental schools.

By the end of the 20th century nearly half of all dental schools in North America also adopted this DMD degree for their graduates, and that is why about half of the dentists you visit are called DMD while the other half are designated as DDS. The American Dental Association, which is the main professional organization over the dental industry in the USA, accepts both designations equally, so whatever your dentist happens to be - either a DDS or a DMD - the training and certification is essentially the same. Basically it just depends on where your particular dentist went to college.

There have been efforts in recent years on behalf of dental organization including the state association in California and the American Dental Association to consolidate the titles or make them interchangeable in order to avoid confusion, but so far nothing has been officially decided or resolved. Meantime the dental industry will continue to have many practicing dentists who go by the title of DDS, while there are also about the same number who call themselves DMD. But as far as patients and consumers are concerned, they both mean the same thing - a certified graduate who holds a doctor of dentistry degree.
by Dr. Susan Wells
References and Bibliography
Dr. Susan Wells DMD has been a warrior dentist practicing dentistry in Warrior, Alabama since 1978.  She treats patients for all aspects of general dentistry including preventive dental care oral hygiene instruction and full scale exams and cleanings. To find out more visit her site at
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