A DDS and a DMD both work in the field of dentistry. 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 (DDS) and doctor of dental medicine (DMD) start out with the same training, but dental surgeons also spend time completing a residency to specialize in dental surgery. Their specialized skills and additional training result in a significantly higher income.

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

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Advanced General Dentistry Programs
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  • Endodontics
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  • Oral Surgery
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
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Responsibilities of DDS vs. DMD

The DDS and DMD are both concerned with the dental health of their patients. A dentist may refer patients to a dental surgeon if they believe surgery is required. The DDS and DMD both operate dental equipment and both may give anesthesia to patients. They both use diagnostic tests, such as X-rays. Both dentists and dental surgeons may take teeth out of a patient's mouth if necessary. One of the key distinctions is that dental 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.


A dental 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 a dental surgeon to pursue a career in research or teaching. This involves completing additional training.

Job responsibilities of a DDS include:

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


A DMD is also known as a dentist. 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 DMD include:

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

Related Careers

Dentists and dental 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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