What’s the Difference Between a DDS and a DMD?

Have you ever been to a dental office and noticed that the dentist’s credentials were “DMD” instead of the usual “DDS”? Or maybe it was the other way around?

If you’ve seen a dental specialist before — such as an oral surgeon, periodontist, or pediatric dentist — you’ve probably noticed the different letters behind their name. But for a general and family dental practice, is there a difference between seeing a DDS and a DMD?


DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery, while DMD is the abbreviation for the Latin version of Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine (either one is correct.)

Although the credentials are different, the training and degree are practically identical. In the United States and Canada, you’ll see these credentials used interchangeably, depending on where the dentist went to school. However, other countries may use an abbreviation such as BDS (Bachelor of Dental Science.)

What determines if a dentist is a DMD vs. a DDS? The school that they attended. Depending on the university, the dental program will award one degree or the other. It’s up to that particular educational institution as to which one they want to provide. Both are recognized by the American Dental Association as equal degrees.

Is One Better Than the Other?

It depends on where your collegiate loyalties lie. Joking aside, the difference dates back to 1983 where universities established different dental programs with separate names. Baltimore College of Medicine called theirs DDS, while Harvard settled on DMD.

To this date, about one out of three American dental schools award a DMD degree, while the other two-thirds award a DDS.

Since the ADA establishes specific educational protocols and licensing requirements for all dental schools in the United States, the education received at DMD and DDS programs are essentially identical from school to school. One degree is not “better” than the other.

After graduation, all DMD and DDS students must pass the same National Dental Board exams and certifications and State exams to become licensed before they are able to practice independently.

How Dentists Choose One Over the Other

Most dentists do not set out to become either a DDS or a DMD, but rather choose their degree based on the dental school they hope to attend.

As with other university students, prospective dental students may locate their program based on geographical area, reputation of the University, the interview process, and how well their test scores are. Dental programs are extremely competitive, with only the top performing students being accepted into the programs, whether they be DDS or DMD.

Continuing Education for the DDS and DMD

Both “types” of dentists require the same ongoing professional development training and licensing in order to practice. However, dentists are free to select with which professional organizations they study through, making it easier to learn unique approaches and care methods from leaders in the industry.

At the Kois Center, we partner with DDSs and DMDs throughout the United States to provide impeccable care methods that often are not perfected during dental school. Locate a Kois dentist near you today!