Updated on February 9, 2024
5 min read

DMD vs. DDS: What’s The Difference?

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What’s the Difference Between a DMD and DDS?

To become a licensed dentist, aspiring dentists must obtain one of two degrees: a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) or a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS).

DMD and DDS degrees are awarded to dentists who have completed an accredited dental school program, typically lasting 3 to 4 years.

Although the degrees have different names, they cover the same topics, including anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, and pathology.

Both dental degrees have the same curriculum requirements. Whether or not a dentist graduates with a DMD or a DDS depends on their university and which qualification the dental school awards.1

dentist and assistant during a dental treatment on a patient scaled

The History of DDS vs. DMD

In 1840, Horace Hayden, the first licensed American dentist, and Chapin Harris, an American dentist and physician, established the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. The Maryland school is credited as the first in the world to establish a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree.2 

In 1867, Harvard established the first dental school affiliated with a university, the Harvard University Dental School. They called their qualification the Dentariae Medicinae Doctorate (DMD), causing the controversy that continues to this day between the two degrees.2

Is a DMD or DDS Better? 

Essentially, there is no difference between a DMD and a DDS. One is not better or more qualified than the other. 

Both degrees require the same training and education, and they allow dentists to perform the same kinds of procedures in professional settings.

Education and Examinations

Becoming a dentist requires at least 4 years of additional education after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) requires the first 2 years to involve classroom and laboratory learning. 

Students study a variety of subjects, including:

  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Histology
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology

Dental students also learn about oral diagnosis and treatment. They may even practice on models before starting supervised patient treatment late in their second year of training.

The final 2 years are more hands-on, involving rotations at licensed dental practices. Along with dental procedures, students learn about business management and how to work with other dental professionals.3 

They then have to take and pass the National Board Dental Examination (NBDE).4

When applying for initial licensure, prospective dentists must also complete the jurisprudence examination. The jurisprudence examination contains questions about state dental laws, rules, and regulations.

After completing all of these steps, students will become licensed general dentists. After receiving their license, all dentists must take a certain amount of continuing education courses to renew their license. The specific requirements vary from state to state. 

Other Dental Acronyms

DMD and DDS are the two most important qualifications a dentist must achieve to practice dentistry. They are not the only qualifications that a dentist can achieve, though. 

Dentists must also develop other skills, such as infection control, HIPAA, and CPR/ACLS. There are also many other types of dental qualifications, including:

  • Fellowship in the Academy of General Dentistry (FAGD)
  • Master of the Academy of General Dentistry (MAGD)
  • Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (FICOI)

The FAGD and MAGD are both qualifications achieved by dentists who have completed a certain number of continuing education hours and have passed a rigorous examination.5

The International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI) is an organization that provides continuing education courses on implants. 

Dentists can also become fellows through the ICOI. It is an important professional membership network for a dentist or other oral medicine practitioner. ICOI aims to improve patient treatment through research and education.6

Continuing Education (CE)

Dentists must meet continuing education (CE) requirements to maintain their licenses and continue practicing. This helps them stay up-to-date and provide quality patient care.

CE helps dentists update their knowledge and skills or specialize in oral surgery, implants, oral pathology, and more.7

There are currently 12 dentistry specialties the National Commission recognizes on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards (NCRDSCB).8

Some of the most common ones include:


Endodontics is a branch of dentistry that relates to diagnosing and treating diseases, injuries, and problems related to the tooth pulp.

render of root canal

To become an endodontist, dentists must complete a specified advanced program after 3 or 4 years of dental school. This process usually takes between 2 to 3 additional years of education.9


Periodontics is a dental specialty focusing on the health of teeth, gums, and supporting structures. The field of periodontics helps support the tooth and gum tissues by removing plaque and bacteria from the spaces between teeth.

Gum recession illustration

Periodontists have an additional 3 years of training after they graduate from dental school.10


Orthodontists fix and straighten crooked teeth by moving them into their correct position. Orthodontics can restore the health and function of misaligned jaws or crooked teeth.

3D render of teeth with metal braces in gums

This specialisty requires an additional 2 to 3 years of training after dental school.11


A prosthodontist specializes in restoring, replacing, and maintaining teeth. They work in dental or oral surgery settings. They are also often specialists in dental implants, which replace missing teeth with artificial ones made from titanium or ceramic.

Womans mouth with missing broken teeth. Lost incisor molars

To become a board-certified prosthodontist, dentists must complete a 3-year program in post-graduate training.12

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

An oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a doctor who treats diseases, injuries, and deformities of the mouth, face, jaw, and related structures.13

To obtain this specialty, dentists must complete 3 to 6 years of additional education.14


There is no difference in scope of practice between DMD-qualified and DDS-qualified dentists. They have the same training and education and provide the same treatments.

Every dentist must have a DDS or a DMD degree to practice dentistry. They must obtain their degree from an official, accredited school. They must also adhere to any state laws and receive the necessary relevant qualifications on a state-by-state basis in order to practice there.

Additionally, dentists can pursue a wide variety of specializations, including orthodontics, periodontics, and endodontics. They can earn these specializations and maintain their licenses through continuing education (CE) and additional training.

Last updated on February 9, 2024
14 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 9, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. American Dental Association “DDS/DMD” www.mouthhealthy.org.
  2. American Dental Association “History of Dentistry” www.ada.org.
  3. American Dental Association “High School and College Students” www.ada.org.
  4. American Student Dental Association “Obtaining Dental Licensure” www.asdanet.org.
  5. Academy of General Dentistry “Why choose an FAGD or MAGD dentist?” www.agd.org.
  6. International Congress of Oral Implantologists “About ICOI” www.icoi.org.
  7. American Dental Association “Continuing Education” www.ada.org.
  8. National Commission on Recognition of Dental Specialties and Certifying Boards “Specialty Definitions”  www.ncrdscb.ada.org.
  9. American Association of Endodontists “What’s the difference between a dentist and an endodontist?” www.aae.org.
  10. American Academy of Periodontology “What is a Periodontist?” www.perio.org.
  11. Orthodontic Associates “Becoming An Orthodontist” www.orthodonticassoc.com, 19 Feb. 2020
  12. Penn Dental Medicine University of Pennsylvania “Prosthodontic Program” www.dental.upenn.edu.
  13. Cleveland Clinic “Maxillofacial Surgery” www.my.clevelandclinic.org, 18 Nov. 2021
  14. Commission on Dental Accreditation “Accreditation Standards for Advanced Dental Education Programs in Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology” www.coda.ada.org,  6 Aug. 2021
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