What is the Difference Between D.D.S. and D.M.D.?

You may be wondering what the letters after a dentist’s name represent (ie Dr. John Doe D.D.S.) Or perhaps you’ve seen it written this way, Dr. John Doe D.M.D. These terms represent the dental degree that students achieve through years of rigorous studying and work. The history behind these abbreviations is an interesting one.

In the dental world, D.D.S. stands for one of two things. Either it stands for “Doctor of Dental Science” or it stands for “Doctor of Dental Surgery.” In either case, the name is bestowed upon someone who has successfully completed the appropriate course work and both parts of the National Board Dental Examination. A D.M.D degree on the other hand stands for “Doctor of Medical Dentistry.” The difference between these two degrees is literally only the name.

Both a D.D.S. and a D.M.D degree are acknowledged by the American Dental Association (ADA) and require the same schooling and examination to attain. So why the two names?

Way back in the 1800’s various trade schools provided dental programs, honoring graduates with a D.D.S degree. However, once the first full fledged dental school was formed (The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery) the term D.M.D. was created as a way to separate the surgical component of dentistry and the medical part.

Over time, the two disciplines became closer and closer until they were virtually the same. Both abbreviations remained, but the degrees themselves became identical. So, if you’re ever concerned about why one dentist has a D.D.S. degree and another has a D.M.D degree, you’ll know that it is because of the school that they attended, and what degree that university gives to its dental graduates. In either case you can rest assured that your teeth are in good hands.