What Is the Difference Between a DDS & DMD?

What Is the Difference Between a DDS & DMD?
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What Is the Difference Between a DDS & DMD?Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. The Difference
  2. Why Are There Two If They Are the Same?
  3. Education
  4. DMD & DDS Programs
  5. References

Dentists have a language all their own. This speech includes a clinical language that many patients do not understand. What a dentist says is not said to confuse their patients, it is just an understanding between dentists to define their procedures, tools, and in some cases their titles.

If you notice a dentist's name on their sign or their business cards, you will almost always see one of two professional designations – either “DDS” or “DMD.” One question that patients sometimes have is, “What is the difference between these two?” It is this:

  • DDS is short for Doctor of Dental Surgery
  • DMD is the abbreviation for Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry
The titles mean the same thing, and both require the same educational background and degree as required by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Difference Between DDS and DMD

The difference in one dentist being designated as a DDS and another as a DMD really depends on where they received their respective educations. Dental schools graduate students with either degree name. But by be accredited by CODA, universities are required to set up their curriculum by CODA’s standards.

If you are considering dentistry for your education and career, you may wonder what the differences are between DDS and DMD and which you should pursue. The difference is the title given by the school, so it isn't as much a choice which you want, the DDS or DMD, but rather which school you would prefer to attend.

Salaries between DDS and DMD are in the same range. Those who hold these degrees can choose to practice family medicine for children and adults. It is also possible to monitor oral development with pediatric patients. Through this monitoring, they would make referrals to specialists for further dental work needed outside their skill level.

Why Are There Two Different Dental Degrees If There Are Not Really Any Differences?

DDS is a terminal degree for the study of dentistry. Every dentist in the United States must complete this level of education to be licensed to practice. With this degree, a dentist learns about facial and oral structures.

DMD is short for Doctor of Dental Medicine, and a dentist must complete their undergraduate classes, and then graduate from a four-year dental school. The difference between the DDS and DMD is the school chosen for education. The course work is the same, the training is the same, and both are equally qualified for the same job. Both of these can take excellent care of oral needs. The reason for the differences is explained by the Oregon Health and Science University.

The Baltimore College of Medicine granted the first DDS degrees in 1893. Soon after that, Harvard University began its dental educational classes. Harvard renamed the degree as DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine.) The disagreement in naming is the reason there are two names for the same degree.

Education After DDS or DMD

Once a dentist graduates from four years of dental school and has earned the DDS or DMD, you are now trained to enter the dental industry as a general dentist. This degree will allow you to perform oral diagnostic, surgical, and rehabilitative procedures to repair or restore missing or damaged teeth. As a general dentist, you can also perform predictive dentistry and all other aspects in one setting.

After your four-year graduation, you can pursue a career as a general dentist, or continue your education and explore other dental specialties:

  • Prosthodontics
  • Dental Anesthesiology
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Dental Public Health
  • Periodontics
  • Endodontics
  • Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Orofacial Pain
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
  • Oral Medicine
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
There are numerous choices to make after your initial four years of education to become a dentist. It is recommended you take your time and research which field will best fit your career goals and personality.

DMD and DDS Programs: Which School to Choose

Several publications rank dental schools around the country, but readers should be wary about making any decisions about these schools based on the listings. Schools offer mission-based degrees and have varying programmatic differences from others. For instance, some schools may enjoy a reputation of producing oral surgeons, while others may have a history of producing excellent orthodontists.

Before you pick a school, you want to have an idea of what you want out of a dental school and how you want to leverage your degree upon graduation.

Things to consider when shopping for a dental school include:

  • Curriculum type
  • Research and clinical focus
  • Geographical location (weather, size of the city, proximity to home, etc.)
  • Student-teacher ratio of the dental school
  • Overall enrollment of the university
  • Community-centric clinical opportunities and experiences
  • Internship opportunities
  • Faculty engagement with dental students
  • Alumni engagement with dental students
  • Any other factors that are important to you

This map will help you determine which of the schools will fit your educational goals.

Schools Offering DMD ProgramsSchools Offering DDS Programs
Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health
Augusta University
Boston University
California North State College of Dental Medicine
Case Western Reserve University
East Carolina University
Harvard University
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Dental Medicine
Medical University of South Carolina
Midwestern University (Illinois)
Midwestern University (Arizona)
Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health
Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine
Oregon Health and Sciences University
Roseman University
Rutgers University
Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine
Temple University
Texas Tech University-El Paso
Tufts University
University of Alabama at Birmingham
University of Florida
University of Louisville
University of Nevada- Las Vegas
University of New England
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
University of Puerto Rico
Western University of Health Sciences

Columbia University
Creighton University
Howard University
Indiana University
Loma Linda University
Louisiana State University
Marquette University
Meharry Medical College
New York University
Ohio State University
Stony Brook University
Texas A&M University
Touro College of Dental Medicine
Tufts University
University of Buffalo
University of California- Los Angeles
University of Colorado
University of Detroit Mercy
University of Iowa
University of Kentucky
University of Maryland
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Mississippi
University of Missouri-Kansas City
University of Nebraska
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Oklahoma
University of Pacific
University of Southern California
University of Tennessee
University of Texas-Houston
University of Utah
University of Washington
UT Health San Antonio
Virginia Commonwealth University
West Virginia University


What's the difference between DMD and DDS. (March 2020). FindAnyAnswer.

DMD vs DDS: Differences, Similarities, Degrees, Salaries. (November 2021). World Scholarship Forum.

Career Options. (2021). American Dental Education Association.

Deciding Where to Apply. (2021). American Dental Education Association.

D.M.D. vs. D.D.S.: What's the Difference? (August 2021). Indeed.com.

DMD vs. DDS:The Biggest Differences (And Which is Better). (June 2021). Shemmassian Academic Consulting.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Dentist? A Career Guide to Dentistry. (July 2021). Indeed.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.