DMD vs. DDS Degrees: Key Differences and Similarities

January 16, 2024
6 min read
Contents

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 1/16/24

What’s the difference between DMD vs. DDS degrees? Keep reading, and we’ll give you the rundown!

Becoming a dentist can be a challenging and ultimately rewarding pursuit. Being able to help people stay healthy and lead a higher quality of life is a privilege that modern dentistry gives all of us. That’s why it’s no wonder many are looking to educate themselves at top schools to kickstart their dental careers.

Picking the right school, on the other hand, can be difficult. With many options to choose from, it’s hard to know where you’ll fit in and find the best resources. On top of things like tuition, location, and competitiveness, dental degrees are a factor that is sometimes overlooked by pre-dental students.

Two terms you’re bound to come across are DMD and DDS, but just what exactly do those terms mean? While some may have an elitist view, the distinction may not be as wide as you think. That being said, it’s important to know how schools operate and the pedagogy they choose to use.

So, without further hesitation, let’s get into the difference between DDS and DMD degrees!

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Uncovering Differences Between DMD and DDS Degrees

Dental students can pursue one of two dental degrees: a DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry) or a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery).

The major difference between a DMD dentist and a DDS dentist is the letters they put beside their name. That’s right, both types of dentists are qualified in the exact same areas of dentistry and have identical scopes of practice. That’s why when you’re looking for a dentist, it’s not really important to see which of these two degrees they hold.

When DDS degrees were introduced, dentists sought to integrate the field of dentistry with medicine and surgery, so a distinction was given to the name of the degree awarded. However, this didn’t translate into different curriculums, entry requirements, or state licensure processes.

Is There a Difference in Training or Accreditation Between DDS and DMD Programs?

There’s no difference in training or accreditation between DMD vs. DDS programs. Future dental students can rest assured that they’ll be just as qualified regardless of the type of degree awarded by the school. It comes down more as a matter of classification and school choice of how they’d like to refer to the degree.

Whether you see a dentist who graduated from a DMD program or one who went to a school that offers a DDS program, they’ll both have adequate levels of training and preparation. The accreditation process is the same, with both programs being held to the same standards.

male dentist examining patient

Exploring the Similarities Between DMD and DDS Degrees

While most people focus on the differences between DDS and DMD degrees, there are actually far more similarities between the two. Both types of dentists usually complete a four-year college degree during undergrad and then follow that with an additional four years in dental school.

Dental schools that offer DMD and DDS degrees have comprehensive requirements. These include core science classes in the first two years of education, which are then supplemented by two more years of hands-on curricula like clinical work, which gives them real-world experience.

No matter what kind of degree you get at the end of dental school, you’ll be a competent dentist. Although you may find a rare breed of dentists who like to believe their education was better because they got one degree over the other, the reality is there isn’t much difference between the two.

Making the Choice: Should You Pursue a DDS or DMD Degree?

You should pursue a program that aligns with your values and interests, regardless if it’s a DDS or DMD degree. Out of all the metrics you should concern yourself with, the name of the degree is of little importance. Try looking into the location, school rank, tuition, academic curriculum, and acceptance rates of dental schools

As a dental student, your immediate focus will be on navigating day-to-day experiences. Challenges like studying away from home or an unfavorable study environment may hinder your focus and academic excellence. In such situations, the name of your degree might be the least of your concerns.

When considering dental school options, make sure to prioritize factors that are most relevant to you. If there are specific areas of dentistry you’re interested in, and you know certain schools are known for it, then look into that. Some dentists are fine with general dentistry at a state school, some want to get into research, and some want high-end cosmetic practices. Everyone is different.

female dentist with female patient

List of DMD Programs

Here, we have a list of some noteworthy DMD programs.

  • Boston University
  • Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine
  • Harvard University
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health
  • Oregon Health and Sciences University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Western University of Health Sciences
  • University of Connecticut
  • Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health

List of DDS Programs

The schools listed here all have DDS programs.

  • New York University
  • Loma Linda University
  • UCLA
  • USC
  • Columbia University
  • Ohio State University
  • University of Buffalo
  • UCSF
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Washington

Dental Schools That Offer DMD Degrees

There are a variety of schools offering DMD degrees, ranging from larger institutions like Boston University to prestigious options like Harvard.

If you plan to study on the West Coast, consider schools like the Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health. In pursuing a DMD degree, numerous options are available to help you find the right school.

female dentist with male patient

Dental Schools That Offer DDS Degrees

There is as much variety among DDS schools as there is with DMD programs. Notable institutions like New York University offer comprehensive education and grant DDS degrees. For those considering prestigious institutions, Columbia University is also a viable option.

When considering studying on the West Coast, you won’t go wrong with either UCLA or USC. These schools are some of the leading dental institutions in the country, pioneering advanced research and cutting-edge technology for enthusiastic new dentists to take advantage of.

It’s no surprise that if you’re planning to go to dental school, knowing how to best prepare can make a huge difference. If you’re someone who’s struggled in the past, having someone to give a little guidance can be all you need. That’s why you should never hesitate to reach out for a free consultation with one of our experts.

FAQs About DMD vs. DDS

Still have underlying questions and concerns about the DMD vs. DDS divide? Look no further! Our expert answers are here to weigh in on any concerns you may have.

1. How Does DDS vs. DMD in Dentistry Compare to MD vs. DO in Medicine?

While MD and DO medical training differ in scope, practice, and focus, this is not the case for DDS and DMD degrees in dentistry. The two dental degrees are merely different in title. On the other hand, DO training may involve more things like holistic health and manual techniques to improve medical outcomes.

Although the training an MD and a DO receive are different, they can often end up in the same specialties and minimize the differences in their practices. Dentists need not concern themselves with this because the degree you receive won’t alter the fundamental training you receive as a dentist.

Students should prioritize factors that are relevant to them and their unique situation. Finding out which areas of dentistry are appealing to you can give you a lot of clarity and direction. If possible, try volunteering or working in a dental setting to see what kind of things you find most fascinating in dental medicine.

2. Why Do Two Distinct Dental Degrees Exist if There's No Apparent Difference?

The two degrees exist because Harvard decided to use Latin terms for their credentials; the DMD degree stands for Doctor Medicinae Dentariae. Although the two distinctions are often a source of confusion for students, the separate credential wasn’t to imply a different curriculum of any sort.

3. Is It More Expensive to Get a DMD or DDS Degree?

Generally, the key factors that determine the cost of your education are if you’re attending a public or private university and if you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. What credential you’re awarded in dental school should have little bearing on the total cost of your program.

4. Which Is More Challenging: Gaining Admission to a DMD or DDS Program?

The competitiveness of a dental school isn’t tied to whether or not the institution grants DMD or DDS degrees. Factors like prestige, how many students are applying, and how many seats there are, play a far bigger role in determining the cut-off and admission requirements to gain entry. 

Regardless of which program you decide to pursue, you’ll need a competitive application. This will involve things like the right extracurriculars and acing your interview to round yourself out and make yourself a more appealing student for dental school.

No matter where you choose to go, gaining admission is easier when you’ve proven yourself academically in undergrad. A high GPA will open many doors for you and give you as many options as possible when it comes time to apply for dental school. There aren’t unique application requirements for the different types of programs.

5. Are DMD or DDS Degrees Perceived As More Prestigious?

Prestigious schools exist in both DDS and DMD categories, with well-renowned institutions like Harvard offering DMD degrees and top-ranked schools like Columbia University providing DDS degrees. 

Ultimately, where you attended dental school tends to matter more to people than the specific letters in the degree it awards. This applies not only to patients but also to most dentists. In fact, the general public is unlikely to be familiar with the distinction between degrees but is more likely to recognize the prestige associated with specific schools.

6. Does Holding a DMD or DDS Enhance Your Competitiveness for Specialty Residency Programs?

Choosing a dental specialty is a personal decision that takes a lot of planning and consideration. That being said, no matter which degree you have, it won’t have any bearing on your competitiveness to match with specialty residency programs.

7. Is There a Salary Gap Between DDS and DMD Graduates?

There’s no salary gap between DMD and DDS dentists. What kind of dentist you are, where you choose to practice, and your clients are going to play a far bigger role in determining your salary than which degree you have.

That being said, the average dentist's salary in America is about $225k annually. This can, of course, vary by specialty, the cost of running a dental practice, and what state you’re in. Some of the highest-earning states include California, Arizona, and Colorado.

8. What Alternative Degrees Can Aspiring Dental Students Pursue?

Aspiring dental students can pursue things like a Master of Science (MSc) to gain research knowledge in the field of dentistry. Being able to contribute to a growing body of scientific literature can help move advances in dentistry forward and lend well to creatives who are highly intelligent and competent.

Another option many dental schools provide is to pursue a Master in Public Health (MPH). If you’re curious about how communities access services and the role of dentistry in a larger setting and scale, gaining public health knowledge could help develop your perspective.

Conclusion

The journey to becoming a dentist can be confusing at times but ultimately rewarding in the end. Not many professions are able to make a direct impact in the lives of their patients the same way a dental healthcare professional can. No matter who someone is, everyone needs a dentist in their lives.

It may seem strange to some aspiring dentists the way there are two different kinds of dental degrees awarded by dental schools without a compelling reason. After all, why go through the trouble of differentiating a degree if it confers no additional knowledge or benefit? The fact is that traditions and history are simply rigid and difficult to change.

When you’re looking into dental school, try not to pay too much attention to whether the program being offered grants a DMD vs. DDS degree. You’ll be able to become a qualified dentist either way. Furthermore, when you attain your dream of becoming a dentist, the name of the credential won’t be something you think of at all.

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