Dentists who graduate from a dental school in the United States achieve a professional doctoral dental degree, either a DDS or DMD, that gives him or her the privilege to treat patients’ oral health needs.  What is the difference between the DDS and DMD dental degree?


The University of Maryland, first founded as the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1840, is the first dental school in the world and students were the first to graduate with a DDS degree, Doctoral of Dental Surgery.   Harvard University in 1867, established the world’s first dental school to be affiliated with a major research university.  Harvard traditionally prints out their degrees in Latin, and first awarded their dental students a CDD (Chirurgae Dentium Doctorisdegree.  Harvard then later changed the degree name to Dentariae Medicinae Doctorae (DMD), and thus became the first dental school to award the DMD degree.

DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery.  DMD stands for Doctor of Dental Medicine. Aside from the name of the dental degree, both degrees are nearly identical.   A dentist who has a DDS is as qualified to perform a crown or tooth extraction as a dentist who has DMD degree.  Similarly a dentist who has a DMD is qualified to do an evaluation and diagnosis on your TMJ, just as well as one who has DDS.  Both dentists according to the American Dental Association (ADA), either DMD or DDS, are professionally well trained and educated in the didactic and clinical setting during dental school.

DDS vs DMD Curriculum and Education

Most dental schools on the West coast offer a DDS.  Most dental schools on the East coast offer a DMD.  The vast majority of dental schools offer a highly rigorous four year program, with some dental graduates continuing afterwards in a one or two year GPR (general practice residency) in a hospital setting.  The difference between DDS and DMD dental degree programs with respect to length and outcome, however, is not discernible.  Today as of March 2019 there are 66 dental schools in 36 states in the United States, with two thirds of the schools awarding the DDS, and one third awarding the DMD.

One could argue that the DMD program has an emphasis on the systemic whole human body, and may thus have a curriculum with more courses in medicine and pathology, hence the “dental medicine” terms in DMD.  One could also argue that the DDS program has an emphasis on surgical procedures such as extractions and implants, hence the term “dental surgery” in DDS.  In the end however, whether your dentist has a DDS or DMD dental degree, the two degrees are nearly identical with the same outcome in mind: total patient care and both are essentially the same degree.   All licensed US dentists must pass the rigorous National Board Dental Examination Part I and II.  They must also pass a written and clinical regional or state exam to practice.

Rest assured you will be given a thorough diagnosis, examination, and treatment as needed consistent with the ADA’s (American Dental Association) highest degree of professionalism and conduct.