Dental Degrees

The Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)

The Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree and the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree are the two degrees that most dental students pursue since every state will accept them for the education requirement needed to obtain a license. However, the DDS degree and the DMD degree are not the only degrees that dental schools offer; there are actually a number of different dental degrees that an individual can pursue. You may be able to obtain a degree that is intended for a specific specialty, intended to be a stepping stone to a DDS or a DMD degree, and/or intended to help you prove that you are more qualified than some of the other professionals in the dental field. Every degree has a different purpose, and it’s not always easy to tell if a particular degree will be able to help you or not.

There are a couple of things that you can look at, however, to get an idea of what a degree can and cannot do.


  • First, you should look at the requirements necessary to obtain the degree. Every dental degree has different requirements, whether undergraduate or graduate.
  • Next, you should look at the job, specialty, and/or state requirements that the degree will allow you to meet. Some states, for example, require a specific degree to work in a specialty, and it is important to make sure that you obtain a degree that will allow you to work in your desired job, specialty, and/or state.

DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine)

One of the degrees that some dental schools offer is the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. The DMD degree is a graduate degree that indicates that an individual has completed all of the clinical, dental, biomedical, and science courses necessary to be a dental professional and that the individual has a firm understanding of the dental procedures and practices that a dentist or another similar dental professional may be required to perform.

The DMD is, for all intents and purposes, identical to the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree, but there are a few things about the DMD degree that you should keep in mind.

 

  • First, the DMD degree is only offered by certain schools. These schools are typically more expensive, usually charging between $50,000 and $90,000 a year to complete a DMD program. Since a DMD program will teach you the same skills as a DDS program, there really isn’t a reason to pursue a DMD degree unless you are looking for a better, and thus more expensive, school.
  • Second, a DMD program has the same requirements as a DDS program. Most of the dental schools that offer DMD programs will require you to obtain a bachelor’s degree (a degree in science is typically preferred but not always required); complete a series of college-level science and English courses; complete at least one college-level math course; meet the GPA and Dental Admission Test (DAT) score requirements that the school has set; and/or meet other similar requirements.
  • Third, a DMD program is typically the same length as a DDS program, and it will typically take you four years from the time you obtain your bachelor’s degree to obtain your DMD degree. There are some programs, however, that may allow you to earn your DMD degree in two or three years instead of four. A shorter program can be extremely helpful, allowing you to save not only time but also money. It is important to note, however, that there are only a few schools that offer expedited and/or combined DMD degree programs, and you may have more difficulty finding a shorter program for a DMD degree than for a DDS degree.
  • Fourth, a DMD degree, like a DDS degree, will allow you to meet the education requirement for a license to practice dentistry in any state in the United States. This is important because you will be required to obtain a license to practice dentistry before you begin your career, and you have to have a degree that the state will accept in order to obtain your license. A DMD degree is just as useful as a DDS degree because every state will accept a DMD as long as you obtained the degree at an accredited school.
  • Finally, it is important to note that a DMD degree, like a DDS degree, may help you become a dentist, but it won’t necessarily guarantee that you receive a license or that you can work in any dental field. This is because some states have other requirements in addition to a DMD degree to receive your license and/or work in certain specialties.

MDS (Master of Dental Surgery)

One of the degrees that you may be able to obtain at a dental school abroad is the Master of Dental Surgery (MDS) degree. The MDS degree is a graduate degree that indicates that an individual has completed a series of dental courses related to a specific specialty and that the individual has proven that he or she has the knowledge and skills necessary to perform the procedures related to that specialty. It is important to note, however, that the MDS degree is not typically issued in the United States and that there are a few things about the MDS degree that you should keep in mind.

  • First, the MDS degree is usually only issued by dental schools in Australia, China, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Singapore. The MDS, as a result, will not allow an individual to work as a dentist in the United States. In fact, an individual with an MDS degree will typically have to complete an additional two years of dental school in the United States before he or she will be allowed to obtain a license.
  • Second, the requirements that you must meet in order to enter an MDS program will vary greatly from school to school and from country to country. However, most of the dental schools that offer MDS programs will allow you to enter the program if you have obtained a bachelor’s degree (some countries prefer a degree in dental surgery or general dentistry, but these degrees are not always required); take the appropriate entrance examinations (which may include a practical exam, an oral exam, and/or a written exam); and meet other similar requirements.
  • Third, it will typically take you three years to complete an MDS program, but there are some programs that will allow you to earn your degree in two years instead of three. This means that you will typically be able to obtain an MDS degree in less time than it would take you to earn your Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree or your Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree. It is important to note, however, that because you can’t use the MDS degree in the United States without additional education, you may, if you’re planning to work in the U.S., have to spend over ten years in school to obtain your bachelor’s degree, your MDS degree, and the required two years of U.S. dental school education. In fact, you may end up spending just as much time on an MDS degree as you would on a DDS or a DMD degree, even if you’re planning to work in the country in which you earned your MDS degree, because some countries will require you to complete a five-year bachelor’s degree program before you enter an MDS degree program.
  • Fourth, you will typically have to choose a specialty for your MDS degree because most MDS degree programs are designed to teach you the skills and knowledge that you need for a specialty. The specialties typically offered for MDS programs include, but are not limited to, conservative dentistry, endodontics, pediatric dentistry, public health dentistry, periodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and prosthodontics.
  • Finally, an MDS degree will allow you to work as a dentist in most of the countries that issue it, but you may be required to obtain other degrees and/or meet other requirements to legally work in some of those countries.

MS or M.Sc. (Master of Science)

One of the degrees that a number of individuals in the dentistry field pursue is the Master of Science (MS or M.Sc.) degree. The MS degree is a graduate degree that indicates that an individual has completed a series of courses in every component of the scientific field studied (not necessarily related to dentistry) and that the individual has an advanced understanding of the concepts and/or procedures related to that field. An MS degree also indicates that an individual has the skills and/or knowledge necessary to work in the field. The MS degree can help set you apart from some of the other dental professionals in the field, but there are a few things about an MS degree that you should keep in mind.

  • First, it is important to note that an MS degree is typically related to a specific field and that there are a number of different fields you can choose from. However, most pursue an MS degree in Biology (typically known as a Master of Biological Sciences degree), in Dentistry (see the Master of Science in Dentistry article for more information), in Health Science, or in Public Health. These degrees are directly related to the dentistry field, and an individual will be able to use the courses taken to earn the MS degree to fulfill some or all of the course requirements needed to enter a dental school.
  • Second, the requirements that you must meet in order to enter an MS program can vary greatly from field to field and from school to school. However, most of the dental schools and other universities that offer MS programs will require you to obtain a bachelor’s degree (preferably but not necessarily related to the field that you are studying); have a GPA of no less than a 3.0; and have an above-average Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score, an average Dental Admission Test (DAT) score, and/or an average Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score. Some MS programs may also require you to prove that you are currently enrolled in a dental program or a medical program that will lead to a doctoral degree, prove that you have already obtained a doctoral degree in dentistry or medicine, and/or prove that you have met a series of other similar education and/or experience requirements.
  • Third, it will typically take you two years from the time you obtain your bachelor’s degree to obtain your MS degree. It is important to note, however, that there are some programs that will allow you to earn your MS degree in one year and others that will take you more than two years. (Those that take more than two years will typically require you to obtain your doctorate, obtain the appropriate amount of experience, and then complete two to three years of education to earn your MS degree.)
  • Finally, while most states will allow you to work as a dentist without an MS degree, you may need an MS degree to work in certain specialties. For example, a dental public health dentist may need to obtain a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) degree and the American Board of Dental Public Health certification to work in some states.

MSD (Master of Science in Dentistry)

One of the degrees that you can obtain at a dental school is the Master of Science in Dentistry (MSD) degree. The MSD degree, also known as the Master of Dental Science (MDS) degree, is a graduate degree that indicates that an individual has completed a series of courses related to dental research and/or a specific dental specialty, and has an advanced understanding of the concepts and procedures that a dental researcher and/or a dentist in a specialty must know. The MSD degree can be extremely helpful if you’re attempting to pursue a career in research or in a dental specialty, but there are a few things about an MSD degree that you should keep in mind.

  • First, it is important to note that while an MSD degree is typically related to a specific dental specialty, some MSD degrees may cover more than one specialty. Some dental schools will allow you to concentrate on a specialty while other dental schools will require you to complete courses for all of the specialties that are covered in the school’s program. You need to make sure that the MSD degree that you are pursuing is actually teaching you the skills and knowledge that you need for the specialty that you are attempting to enter. Some of the specialties that are typically covered in an MSD program include endodontics, operative dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, prosthodontics, preventative dentistry, and research.
  • Second, an MSD degree is designed to help you specialize in a dental field, so most dental schools will require you to meet some of your licensure requirements before you begin your MSD degree program. In fact, most dental schools will require you to obtain your Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree or your Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree, complete both parts of the National Board Dental Examination, have a GPA of no less than a 3.0, have above-average DAT and/or GRE scores, and meet other similar requirements. It is important to note, however, that there are some schools that will allow you to enter an MSD degree program as long as you are currently enrolled in a DDS or DMD degree program.
  • Third, it will typically take you three years from the time you obtain your DDS or DMD degree to obtain your MSD degree, but there are some programs that will allow you to earn your MSD degree in two years rather than three. This is important because a three-year program is typically more expensive than a two-year program, and you may able to save a lot of money if you can find a two-year program. It is important to note, however, that most dental schools design their two-year MSD degree programs for individuals who are pursuing a career in research or who are interested in learning about all of the different dental specialties, so you may not be able to find a two-year program for a specific specialty.
  • Finally, most states will allow you to work as a dentist without an MSD degree, but you may need an MSD degree to work in certain specialties. For example, an orthodontist may need to obtain a Master of Science in Dentistry in Orthodontics degree and the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) certification to work in some states.

FAGD (Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry)

One of the dental certifications that a number of individuals pursue is the Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry (FAGD) award. The FAGD award is not a degree but rather a professional certification that indicates that an individual has completed a series of dental courses in addition to the courses typically required to become a general dentist. The FAGD award also indicates that an individual has proven that he or she has the skills and knowledge necessary to be an effective general dentist. The FAGD award can be extremely helpful if you’re attempting to bolster your general dentistry résumé, but there are a few things about the FAGD award that you should keep in mind.

  • First, it is important to remember that you must meet a series of requirements in order to obtain the FAGD award and that you won’t be able to obtain the FAGD award at any of the dental schools that you might attend. The FAGD award is only issued by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), and to obtain your award you must have a valid license to practice dentistry, be a member of the AGD for at least three years, complete at least 500 hours of continuing education courses approved by the AGD, pass the AGD Fellowship Exam, and attend a ceremony.
  • Second, it is important to note that while you will only have to be a member of the AGD for three years in order to obtain the FAGD award, it will typically take you more than three years from the time that you obtain your license to practice dentistry. This is because you will be required to complete a large number of continuing education courses in order to obtain the FAGD award, and it can take a long time to complete all of these courses.
  • Third, you may be able to take some of the courses that you need for the FAGD award through a self-instruction program or through a Federal Dental Service Specialty Rotation Program. A self-instruction program is a continuing education program in which you are allowed to study the material at home and take a test to complete the program and earn your credit. A Federal Dental Service Specialty Rotation Program is a program that allows you to practice your skills in the U.S. military or provide your services for a government agency. The AGD will give you credit for each day that you work in a Federal Dental Service Specialty Rotation Program. It is important to note, however, that the AGD will only accept 150 hours in self-instruction or 200 hours in federal dental service. You will be required to take at least 350 hours of your continuing education in a classroom, conference, seminar, or another similar setting in which you are actually present for the lecture.
  • Finally, it is important to note that the FAGD award is only intended as a résumé builder and that there is no position for which an individual is legally required to have the award. The FAGD award will help you prove that you have the skills that your patients may be looking for, but it won’t help you enter a specific specialty.

MAGD (Master of the Academy of General Dentistry)

One of the dental certifications that a number of individuals pursue is the Master of the Academy of General Dentistry (MAGD) award. The MAGD award is not a degree but rather a professional certification that indicates that an individual has completed a series of dental courses in addition to the courses typically required to become a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry (FAGD). The MAGD award is a more advanced version of the FAGD award that indicates that an individual has the skills and knowledge necessary to be an excellent general dentist. The MAGD award can be extremely helpful if you’re trying to set yourself apart from the rest of the dental field, but there are a few things about the MAGD award that you should keep in mind.

  • First, it is important to remember that the MAGD award is a more advanced version of the FAGD award and that you will have to obtain an FAGD award before you obtain the MAGD award. It is also important to note that the MAGD award is only offered by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) and not by any of the dental schools that you might attend.
  • Second, it is important to remember that you must meet a series of requirements in order to obtain the MAGD award. The AGD will require you to have a valid license to practice dentistry, be a member of the AGD, complete at least 1,100 hours in continuing education courses (the 500 hours needed to obtain the FAGD award will count toward the MAGD hour requirement), have an FAGD award, and attend a ceremony.
  • Third, it is possible for you to earn your MAGD award immediately after your FAGD award, but it will typically take you anywhere from three to ten years to earn the hours that you need because of the extremely large number of continuing education courses you will be required to complete.
  • Fourth, you may be able to take some of the courses that you need for the MAGD award through a self-instruction program or through a Federal Dental Service Specialty Rotation Program (see the FAGD article for a brief description of both of these programs). It is important to note, however, that the AGD will only accept 150 hours in self-instruction or 200 hours in federal dental service; at least 400 hours must have a clinical component, taken in an environment in which you can actually perform the skills that you are learning with an instructor watching. You will also be required to complete a specific number of hours in each of the dental specialties that the AGD has identified to earn the MAGD degree (for example, 46 hours of courses in endodontics).
  • Finally, it is important to note that the MAGD award is only intended as a résumé builder and that there is no position for which an individual is legally required to have the award. The MAGD award will help you prove that you have the skills that your patients may be looking for, but it won’t help you enter a specific specialty.