Alec Simonson: What Are the Differences Between the DMD and DDS Degrees?


Alec Simonson enrolled at dental school in 2021 with the goal of mastering the art and science of dental medicine. This article will look at the Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry (DMD) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degrees, exploring the differences and similarities between the two qualifications.

DMD and DDS degrees are qualifications required for a career in dentistry. In the United States, the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) is the accrediting body for all dental schools. All US dental schools must follow CODA standards in the clinical and academic training of students.

Both DMD and DDS degrees generally involve a four-year undergraduate education. Graduates then attend dental school for another four years of classroom, clinical and dental laboratory training. Dental students spend their first two years studying biomedical sciences courses like biochemistry, anatomy, pathology, and pharmacology, focusing on laboratory and clinical training for the last two years.

DDS graduates essentially gain the same clinical skills and knowledge as DMD program graduates. Students taking DDS and DMD programs sit the same National Dental Board exams. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the DDS and DMD are the same degrees, with dentists who study the qualifications gaining the same education. The ADA suggests that the decision of awarding a DDS or DMD degree is down to the individual university and that both degrees have the same curriculum requirements.

Upon graduating from dental school, dentists are required to sit the National Board Dental Examination, then a regional clinical board examination. They must also pass a jurisprudence examination, testing their knowledge about state laws before being granted a license to practice dentistry in that state.

Most dentists practice general dentistry, although some choose to specialize in a particular area after earning their degree. Ranging from two to six years in duration, specialty areas include oral surgery, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics, and prosthodontics.

Differences in tuition between dental schools largely depend on whether the dental school is public or private and whether the student has in-state or out-of-state residency. Usually, private schools and out-of-state residency culminate in higher tuition fees.

Whichever qualification a dentist has, they are licensed by their state licensing board to practice the same kind of dentistry, as the board sees no difference between the two degrees. The reason that there are two different dental degrees in the United States today can be traced back to 1867, on Harvard’s campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Opening its doors in 1840, the Baltimore College of Dental School (today the University of Maryland School of Dentistry) was the world’s first dental school. The institution is widely regarded as the birthplace of the DDS degree, with several dental schools opening subsequently, all of which granted the DDS degree.

The Harvard Dental School was founded in 1867. At Harvard, all degrees were granted in Latin. Harvard therefore needed to come up with a suitable Latin name for its dental degree. Modifying the medical degree, Medicinae Doctoris, they came up with the Doctoris Medicinae Dentariae, or DMD. Today, the DMD is known as a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine degree.

Essentially, there is no difference between DDS and DMD degrees, which provide dentists with the same knowledge, training and skills. The only difference lies in the fact that some universities opt to call their dental degree a DMD, while others choose DDS. Some of the most prestigious dental schools in the United States include UCLA, Harvard, UCSF, Columbia, and UPenn. Of those, two offer a DMD degree and three offer a DDS program. Neither degree is considered more prestigious than the other.

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