Dental schools grant either the DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) degree to graduates of their general-dentistry programs. Most general dentists who complete post-doctoral specialty training receive an additional degree signifying advanced education.

Doctor of Dental Medicine

Receiving a DMD degree requires completion of three or more years of undergraduate education and four years of dental school. Both the DMD and the DDS degrees use the same American Dental Association (ADA) curriculum requirements.

Post-Doctoral Specialties

Each of the nine ADA-defined dental specialties requires completion of post-doctoral study. The specialties are dental public health, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial pathology, oral and maxillofacial radiology, oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and prosthodontics.

Post-Doctoral Study

The MSD (Master of Science in Dentistry) is the most common dental specialty degree, usually requiring one to two years of study. Unlike other fields, dentistry awards its master's degrees after its doctorates.

Impact on Dental Practice

Many states regulate dentists' ability to declare a specialty. Of the 35 states that allow advertisement of specialty credentials, 17 require dentists with state-licensed specialties to declare or limit their practices to that specialty.