I am occasionally asked what the ‘D.D.S.’ following my name stands for, or if I’m a ‘real doctor’ (to which the answer is, “Yes, definitely!”).
Dentists are doctors who have chosen to specialize in oral health. This includes diagnosing oral diseases, the safe administration of anesthetics, performing oral surgical procedures and managing oral trauma.
A dentist with a D.D.S. degree holds a Doctorate of Dental Science, whereas a D.M.D. degree is a Doctor of Dental Medicine. Both degrees have essentially the same educational and training requirements.
Dentists trained in the U.S. graduate from a dental school with accreditation by the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation. After earning their undergraduate degree (typically 4 years to achieve a B.S. degree in Biology, for example), they continue their education to earn their dental degree (another 4 years at most dental schools). Afterwards, some dentists continue to achieve certification in a dental specialty, such as Orthodontics.
Before any dentist or specialist can earn a license to practice, they must first pass national examinations and meet state requirements. Additionally, dentists must continue their education throughout their years in practice. State dental boards have varying requirements for dentists who practice in their state, comprised of a quota of hours of accredited educational courses. Dentists may also take advanced courses to stay current with new technologies or techniques in order to provide patients with cutting-edge dental options. These courses and associated expenses to attend them are taken at the expense of the dentist.
With so many advancements in technology and developments as a result of research and modernized techniques, dentistry is an exciting profession. However, a good dentist must also have a fondness and compassion for working with people. It’s the ‘people’ part of dentistry that makes every day special in our office! Caring for each individual’s oral health and appearance means we are helping to enhance their life!