When you go to the dentist’s office, you will notice that your dentist has either a DDS or DMD degree next to his or her last name. Have you ever wondered what the difference was? Is one degree better than the other?
There has always been some confusion about the name of the degree that is awarded to dentists. All dentists have one of two degrees that they are associated with. They will either have the abbreviations DDS or DMD next to their names; DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery while DMD stands for the Latin phrase “Dentariae Medicinae Doctor” which translates to Doctor of Dental Medicine. But what exactly is the difference between the two degrees? Should a patient choose a dentist based on his or her degree title?
According the American Dental Association (ADA), there is no difference between the two degrees. Dentists with either degree have graduated from an accredited dental school and are highly trained professionals in their fields. They have the same type of training and both fulfill the curriculum requirement as set by the ADA. It is up to individual dental schools to decide whether to offer a DDS or DMD degree. So how did this confusion even arise in the first place? The answer lies within the history of dentistry.
The original degree that was granted for dentists in the US was the DDS degree. However, in 1867 this all changed when Harvard decided to add a dental school. Harvard had a tradition of offering degrees titles named after Latin phrases and they were not going to disrespect tradition with the addition of a dental school. The literal Latin translation of Doctor of Dental Surgery was “Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris.” If Harvard had adopted this Latin phrase, the degree that would have been offered to their dentists would have been CDD. However, they did not think that this title gave off an impressing tone. After much deliberation, they came up with the abbreviation DMD, which stands for “Dentariae Medicinae Doctoris” in Latin.
Since Harvard’s first use in 1867, many institutions have adopted the DMD degree as well. Currently, more than a third of all dental schools offer the Doctor of Dental Medicine Degree.