July 11, 2014
It all started at Harvard University in the 1860s with what a Harvard scholar thought was proper Latin. All diplomas from Harvard are in Latin (it’s a Harvard Ivy League thing). In 1867 when Harvard decided to start a dental school, the common practice among all other dental schools was to award their graduates a Doctor of Dental Surgery – a DDS degree. In Latin, which is the language of Harvard diplomas, this meant its graduates would get a Chirurgae Dentium Doctoris (CDD) degree. It seems the Harvard students of 1867, weren’t keen on a CDD degree. A resident scholar of ancient languages suggested that the school use the ancient Medicinae Doctor with the prefix of Dentariae. The students, and more importantly the faculty and alumni approved, so it was that Harvard dental school graduates received a diploma that read Dentariae Medicinae Doctor or DMD.
The rest of the nation’s dental schools continued to award diplomas in the familiar Anglo-Saxon Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS). In 1900 there were 57 dental schools in the US. Only Harvard and Oregon awarded DMD degrees. The other 55 schools awarded DDS degrees. Today about half of the dental schools in the US and about half of the dental schools in Canada award DMD degrees. The other half award DDS degrees. Most resources will tell you that a DMD is a Doctor of Dental Medicine, which should then be a DDM degree. Wouldn’t that add to the confusion? If you’re still reading and are interested, during antiquity when medicine was in its formative stages there were two types of medical providers -- those who used instruments in the treatment of injury and disease and those who didn’t use instruments. The instrument users were called surgeons. Those who didn’t use instruments preferring to use medicines and what may best be described in modern terms as non-invasive procedures and techniques were called medical doctors. So much for the Latin and history lesson.
The fact remains it doesn’t matter if the dentist went to a school that awarded a diploma with a DDS or a DMD, the treatments they provide and the standards to which they are held are all the same. If your dentist is a DMD you can ask to look at their diploma and if it says Doctor of Dental Medicine instead of Dentariae Medicinae Doctor ask them why they’re not a DDM.
Source: Alaska Dental Society - akdental.org