What is the difference between a DMD and a DDS?

D.M.D vs D.D.S. – What’s the difference?

Absolutely nothing. The fact is, the requirements for both the DDS and DMD degrees are exactly the same, and to become an accredited professional, a student in either program must successfully complete the same test: the National Board Dental Examinations, Parts I and II. In addition, residents of both programs must pass either a regional or state dental board examination as well as a state ethics exam before practicing dentistry in your state.

The American Dental Association (A.D.A.) is aware of the public confusion surrounding these degrees. The A.D.A. has tried on several occasions to reduce this confusion. Several sample proposals include: 1) eliminate the D.M.D. degree; 2) eliminate the D.D.S. degree; or 3) eliminate both degrees and invent a brand new degree that every dental school will agree to use. Unfortunately, this confusion may be with us for a long time. When emotional factors like school pride and tradition arise, it is difficult to find a compromise.

How did it get this way?

The answer lies in the history of dental medicine. DDS was the first abbreviation used in the mid 1800′s given by trade schools or apprenticeship schools unaffiliated with universities. That changed when the first dental school at the University of Maryland – the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, arose.

At the time, educators sought a separation of surgery and medicine, wherein physicians healed by the administration of internal or external medicines, and surgeons treated by manual or instrumental operation. With that division, determining professional medical degrees became a bit of a problem. The Latin translation of Doctor of Dental Surgery is “Chirurgiae Dentium Doctoris;” however, the abbreviation, CDD, was unacceptable for administers of the degree at newly developing dental schools, such as Harvard. The English DDS, Doctor of Dental Science, was also unacceptable as dentistry was not considered a science at the time.

The traditional Latin M.D., “Medicinae Doctoris,” was adopted instead with the Latin “Dentariae” added to designate the dental field of expertise, and so the degree DMD was born. Besides Harvard, Yale University began awarding this degree and over the years many other universities did as well, but even more adopted the trade school degree designation DDS.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were 57 dental schools in the U.S. but only Harvard and Oregon awarded the D.M.D. In 1989, 23 of the 66 North American dental schools awarded the D.M.D. Today, there are 58 dental schools in the United States. According to the ADEA’s

Official Guide to Dental Schools, 24 of the 58 award DMD degrees while 34 of them award DDS degrees.

Dr. Susan L. Sockwell obtained a DMD degree awarded by Medical College of Georgia.