Doctor of Dental Surgery
The DDS degree, referring to Doctor of Dental Surgery, denotes one of a few degrees that are awarded to dentists, the others being Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), Bachelor of Dentistry (BDent), or Bachelor of Dental Surgery/Chirurgiae (BDS) or (BChD), all of which are equivalent degrees for the practice of Dentistry.
Pre-Dental Education in the U.S.
In order to earn a DDS/DMD in the United States, at least 3 years of undergraduate education is required first (although nearly every dental school requires at least a bachelors degree). There is no mandatory course of study while an undergraduate other than satisfactorily completing the requisite "pre-dental" courses; these typically include one year of organic chemistry, in addition to one year of each of the three primary sciences (general biology, chemistry and physics) and a single year of English. Although the majority of dental schools only require the aforementioned courses, other schools have requirements beyond these. In addition to the core prerequisites, the dental admissions test (DAT) is also required. The DAT is usually taken during the spring semester of one's junior year. Finally, every dental school, with the exception of Creighton, requires an interview before admissions can be granted. The interview is designed to evaluate the motivation, character and personality of the applicant. It is often a crucial step in the admissions process. The vast majority of dental students major in a science (biology, biochemistry or chemistry); however, this is not required and many students often elect to major in a non-science related field such as, English, Art History, Business, History, Sociology or Psychology. Due to the large number of applicants, dental school admission is increasingly competitive. Nearly 12,000 applicants applied for the class of 2011 for approximately 4,300 spots. The average dental school applicant admitted in 2006 for the class of 2010 had an overall GPA of 3.52 and a Science GPA of 3.44. Additionally, the mean DAT Academic Average for the class of 2010 was 19.29 and a Perceptual Ability Test (PAT) score of 18.42; however, many dental schools expect much more.
Dental Education/Training in the U.S.
Dental school is four academic years in duration and is similar in format to medical school--consisting of two years of basic medical and dental sciences, followed by two years of clinical training (with continued didactic coursework). Before graduating, every dental student must successfully complete the National Board Dental Examination Part I and II (commonly referred to as NBDE I & II). The NBDE Part I is usually taken at the end of the second year after the majority of the didactic courses have been completed. The NBDE Part I covers anatomic sciences, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, pathology, and dental anatomy and occlusion. The NBDE Part II is usually taken during winter of the last year of dental school and consists of operative dentistry, pharmacology, endodontics, periodontics, oral surgery, pain control, prosthodontics, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, oral pathology, and radiology. NBDE Part I scores are of importance when considering residency training after graduating from dental school.
After graduating, the vast majority of new dentists go directly into practice while a small percentage of dentists apply to a residency program. Some residency programs train dentists in advanced general dentistry such as General Practice Residencies and Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residencies, commonly referred to as GPR and AEGD. Most GPR and AEGD programs are one year in duration but several are two years long or provide an optional second year. GPR programs are usually affiliated with a hospital and thus require the doctor to treat a wide variety of patients including trauma, critically ill, and medically compromised patients. Additionally, GPR programs require residents to rotate through various departments within the hospital, such as anesthesia, internal medicine, and emergency medicine, to name a few. AEGD programs are usually in a dental school setting where the focus is treating complex cases in a comprehensive manner.
There are 9 recognized dental specialties in the US, Canada, and Australia. To become a specialist requires one to train in a residency or advanced graduate training program. Once residency is completed, the doctor is granted a certificate of training. Many specialty programs have optional or required advanced degrees such as (MD or MBBS specific to Maxillofacial Surgery), MS, or PhD.
- Orthodontics: 2-3 years
- Endodontics: 2-3 years
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: 4-6 years (additional time for MD/MBBS degree granting programs)
- Periodontics: 3 years
- Prosthodontics: 3 years (a Prosthodontist may elect to sub-specialize in Maxillofacial Prosthetics which requires an additional year of training after completing a prosthodontic program)
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: 3 years
- Anesthesiology: 2-3 years
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: 3 years
- Pediatric dentistry: 2-3 years
- Dental public health: 3 years
Dentists who have completed accredited specialty training programs in these fields are designated registrable (U.S. "Board Eligible") and warrant exclusive titles such as orthodontist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, endodontist, pediatric dentist, periodontist, or prosthodontist upon satisfying certain local (U.S. "Board Certified"), (Australia/NZ: "FRACDS"), or (Canada: "FRCD(C)") registry requirements.
Licensing Exams in the U.S.
To practice, a dentist must pass a licensing examination administered by an individual state or more commonly a region. There are a handful of states that maintain independent dental licensing examinations while the majority accept a regional board examination. The Northeast Regional Board (NERB), Western Regional Board (WREB), Central Regional Dental Testing Service (CRDTS, and Southern Regional Testing Agency (SRTA) are the four regional testing agencies that administer licensing examinations. Once the examination is passed, the dentist may then apply to individual states that accept the regional board test passed. Each state requires one to pass an ethics/jurisprudence examination as well before a license is granted. To maintain one's dental license the doctor must complete Continuing Education (CE) courses periodically. This promotes the continued exploration of knowledge. The amount of CE required varies from state to state but is generally 10-25 CE hours a year.
The DDS in Canada
The Doctorate of Dental Surgery degree is also awarded and recognized in Canada by the Canadian Dental Association. The requirements for an average DDS program (such as from the University of Toronto) include a course in biochemistry, in physiology, 2 courses in the Life Sciences (anatomy, biology, genetics, etc.), and an additional course in either the Humanities (art, music, history, etc.) or the Social Sciences (sociology, psychology, anthropology, etc.).
Several Universities in Canada offer the DDS degree, including the University of Toronto, the University of Western Ontario, the University of Alberta, and Dalhousie University, while the remaining Canadian dental schools offer the Doctor of Dental Medicine degree to their graduates.
Additional qualifications can be obtained through the Royal College of Dentists of Canada (RCDC) administers examinations for qualified dental specialists as part of the dentistry profession in Canada. The current examinations are known as the National Dental Specialty Examination (NDSE). Successful completion may lead to Fellowship in the College (FRCD(C)) and/or may be used for licensure purposes.
Australia and New Zealand
As of 2008, Australia has six dental schools: List of Australian Dental Schools
- University of Sydney
- University of Melbourne
- University of Adelaide
- Griffith University
- University of Queensland
- University of Western Australia
All of the dental schools, except for Sydney and Melbourne accept high school leavers. Sydney (as of 2001) and Melbourne (as of 2010) are 4-year graduate programs that require a previous bachelor's degree for admission.
Post-graduate training is available in all dental specialties. Master of Dental Surgery/Science (MDS/MDSc) is awarded upon completion of a minimum of 3 years of specialty training. There is a trend now to award Doctorate in Clinical Dentistry (DClinDent).
New Zealand has only one dental school, the University of Otago Faculty of Dentistry. The Faculty of Dentistry awards Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) and Master of Community Dentistry (MComDent) for public health/community dentistry, and Doctorate in Clinical Dentistry (DClinDent) for the rest of the dental specialties.
Both Australia and New Zealand recognize the educational and professional qualifications and grant professional licenses via reciprocity similar to the United States and Canada.
Additional qualifications can be obtained through the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons (RACDS) based in Sydney, Australia, after the candidate has completed the Primary Examinations (basic science examination in Anatomy, Histology, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pathology and Microbiology) and the Final Examinations (clinical subjects in dentistry). After the successful completion of the examinations and meeting the College requirements, the candidate is awarded the title of Fellow of Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons (FRACDS).
The General Dental Council of the United Kingdom had been recognizing the Australian and New Zealand dental qualification as registrable degree until 2000. Graduates who have applied for dental license registration in the United Kingdom now have to sit the International Qualifying Examination (IQE), a 3 part examination involving basic sciences, clinical topics and typodont examination. Many dental schools in Australia and New Zealand are now applying for accreditation and reciprocity of qualifications with Canada and the United States.