In the United States, a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) is the primary degree path for those who wish to practice general dentistry. For those who are searching for a new dentist, these designations might seem a bit confusing. What is the difference between the two? Although they have different names, the two designations are exactly the same thing. The title your dentist uses will depend entirely on where they got their degree; some schools give out DMD and others give out DDS degrees. Today, most dentists graduate as Doctors of Dental Surgery, though a few schools still give out DMDs, and many older dentists may practice as Doctors of Dental Medicine.
Educational requirements for DDS and DMD
Before being accepted into dental school, a prospective DDS or DMD must complete prerequisite pre-dental classes to even be considered. While some schools will consider an applicant qualified with three years of pre-dental, most prefer that such a person have at least a bachelor's degree. Only about 25% of dental school applicants are eventually accepted, and from there they must complete a course of study and residency before they can practice dentistry. By the time someone starts as a practicing DDS or DMD, they have generally completed at least eight years of school.
When to see a DDS or DMD
The DDS or DMD is basically the family doctor or general physician of the dentistry world. This is the doctor you will see for dental checkups, seals, cavity filling, extractions and other such procedures. Especially in sparsely-populated areas, a DDS or DMD may also fix minor chips in teeth, do root canals, remove wisdom teeth and other more complicated, yet common procedures. Aside from semi-annual checkups and cleanings, you should see a DDS or DMD first if you experience unexplained tooth pain, sensitivity, or gums that bleed easily. If it is a problem beyond the scope of their practice, the DDS or DMD can refer you to the appropriate dental specialist.
DDS and DMD limitations
In most cases, a DDS or DMD will not perform a number of complicated dental procedures. This may include fitting braces and dentures, or structures such as crowns and bridges. Dental reconstruction after an accident will probably require a specialist, as will some types of dental surgery. Cosmetic dentistry is a sub-specialty that may be performed by a DDS or DMD, but will probably be a doctor who dedicates his or her time to only that area of practice. This may include such services as the repair of broken teeth, attaching porcelain veneers and whitening. If you're uncertain what type of dentist you need for a given issue, contact the office of your local DDS or DMD; they will let you know whether you need to make an appointment with them, or if you need a referral to another type of dentist.