Pediatric dentistry & DDS vs DMD degrees

I have 2 questions:

  1. Do pediatric dentists have special training over dentists, just as pediatricians do over family practice doctors?
  2. What is the difference between a DDS and a DMD?


Thank you for your multiple part question. I hope the following information is helpful to you.

Pediatric Dentists Training:

Pediatric dentists do have some post-graduate training over a general dentist. This is not to say a general dentist is not qualified to treat children. In the 2-3 extra years of training a pedodontist (pediatric dentist) receives, they are given more training on how to deal with difficult children, sedation techniques for these types of cases, and they are also usually required to do some type of research project. Sometimes kids respond a little better in the office of a pedodontist simply because the office is geared strictly towards kids, e.g. the decor of the office, smaller dental chairs, and in some cases, smaller instruments. As a general family dentist, I enjoy seeing children. They are usually pretty fun to talk with, and they add variety to my day.

D.D.S. or D.M.D. degree?

Many people, including dentists, share your confusion over the use of the D.D.S. and D.M.D. degrees. Today, some dental schools grant a D.D.S. degree and others prefer to award the D.M.D. degree instead. The training the dentists receive is very similar but the degree granted is different. Here are the details:

Ancient medicine was divided into two groups:

  1. the surgery group that dealt with treating diseases and injuries using instruments; and
  2. the medicine group that dealt with healing diseases using internal remedies. Originally there was only the D.D.S. degree which stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery.

This all changed in 1867 when Harvard University added a dental school. Harvard University only grants degrees in Latin. Harvard did not adopt the D.D.S. or "Doctor of Dental Surgery" degree because the Latin translation was "Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris" or C.D.D. The people at Harvard thought that C.D.D. was cumbersome. A Latin scholar was consulted. The scholar suggested the ancient "Medicinae Doctor" be prefixed with "Dentariae". This is how the D.M.D. or "Dentariae Medicinae Doctor" degree was started. (Congratulations! Now you probably know more Latin than most dentists!)

At the turn of the century, there were 57 dental schools in the U.S. but only Harvard and Oregon awarded the D.M.D. In 1989, 23 of the 66 North American dental schools awarded the D.M.D. I think about half the Canadian dental schools now award the D.M.D. degree.

The American Dental Association (A.D.A.) is aware of the public confusion surrounding these degrees. The A.D.A. has tried on several occasions to reduce this confusion. Several sample proposals include:

  1. eliminate the D.M.D. degree;
  2. eliminate the D.D.S. degree; or
  3. eliminate both degrees and invent a brand new degree that every dental school will agree to use.

Unfortunately, this confusion may be with us for a long time. When emotional factors like "school pride" and "tradition" arise, it is difficult to find a compromise.


I wish to thank Information Express, 3250 Ash Street, Palo Alto, CA 94306 (415) 494-8787, for securing copies of the following articles that I used as references to respond to your question:

  1. Crawford, P.R., "To be or not to be: DDS or DMD," Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, (August 1989) 55(8):639-640.
  2. Griggs, D., "The DDS vs. DMD situation," Journal of the American Dental Association, (April 1974) 88(4):691-693.
  3. Hillenbrand, H., "DDS or DMD: The glacial period," Journal of Dental Education, (July 1972) 36(7):3.
  4. Letter, "The DDS-DMD issue," Journal of the American Dental Association, (June 1974) 88(6):1241.
  5. Robinson J.B., "DDS or DMD: Footnotes to dental history," Journal of Dental Education, (January 1973) 37(1):17-20.
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