A DDS and a DMD are different names for the same degree. People with one of these degrees may work in the field of general dentistry or train to become oral surgeons. This article explores their roles, their training, their opportunities for advancement and their income. It also looks at some of the distinctions in their duties.

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Comparing DDS to DMD

A Doctor of Dental Surgery degree (DDS) and a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree (DMD) provide exactly the same training: that necessary to become a general dentist. Some dentists who wish to become oral surgeons also spend 4 years completing a residency to specialize in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Their specialized skills and additional training result in a significantly higher income.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Oral surgeon Doctoral degree, license, residency $208,000 or more (for oral and maxillofacial surgeons) 19% (for oral and maxillofacial surgeons)
Dentist Doctoral degree, license $153,900 19%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Oral Surgeons vs. Dentists

The dentist and the oral surgeon are both concerned with the dental health of their patients. A dentist may refer patients to an oral surgeon if they believe surgery is required. The dentist and the oral surgeon both operate dental equipment and both may give anesthesia to patients. They both use diagnostic tests, such as X-rays. Both dentists and oral surgeons may take teeth out of a patient's mouth if necessary. One of the key distinctions is that oral surgeons operate on patients and may perform procedures related to the mouth, such as treating patients with a cleft lip. Dentists focus on assessing a patient's dental health, teaching them how to care for their teeth, applying sealants and performing minor repairs to teeth.

Oral Surgeon

An oral surgeon operates on patients. They treat issues related to the gums, teeth and jaw that must be addressed through operations. They must have excellent fine motor skills to produce precise incisions during operations. They also need to have the physical stamina required to stand over patients for long periods of time. It is an option for an oral surgeon to pursue a career in research or teaching. This involves completing additional training.

Job responsibilities of an oral surgeon include:

  • Reviewing X-rays and other data about patients
  • Examining patients
  • Removing wisdom teeth or damaged teeth
  • Conducting oral surgeries
  • Communicating with other dental specialists about patient treatment
  • Operating dental equipment
  • Treating dental illnesses


Dentists specialize in oral health care. They typically work in dental offices, although some may work in doctors' offices. Dentists must have good communication skills to operate their business and they also need to have good interpersonal skills. This is because they spend their time working face to face with patients, in close proximity, and need to put patients at ease. Patience is an asset when working with children or those who are afraid of dentists. Those that wish to advance in their career can complete a residency to become a dental specialist.

Job responsibilities of a dentist include:

  • Examining patients' teeth
  • Ordering X-rays
  • Writing prescriptions
  • Producing molds
  • Operating dental equipment, such as drills
  • Extracting teeth

Related Careers

Dentists and oral surgeons may also be interested in pursuing other dental specialties. Learn more about what orthodontists and periodontists do through the links listed here.

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