Understanding Dental Degrees and Accreditations
All dentists who are licensed to practice in the United States have some form of dental accreditation. A few acronyms indicate advanced certification only achieved by Top Dentists. Others are basic degrees achieved by most dentists. Here’s a brief rundown of the letters that may appear after a dentist’s name and what they mean.
Doctor of Dental Medicine and Doctor of Dental Surgery are the most common dental degrees. All dentists licensed to practice in the United States must have one degree or the other. DMD and DDS are equivalent to each other and indicate a basic level of proficiency as a general dentist. Both degrees require at least three years of college education and four years of training in an accredited dental school. Contrary to what the name might suggest, a DDS does not have more training in the surgical aspects of dentistry than a DMD. Different dental schools simply use different titles for the same type of educational achievement.
This acronym has two meanings. In the United States, an MDS stands for Master of Dental Science. This is a type of advanced degree program offered by some universities for dentists who wish to pursue a career in clinical practice. It is achieved in conjunction with specialization in a specific field such as prosthodontics, endodontics or oral and maxillofacial surgery.
Master of Dental Surgery is a type of accreditation that is achieved by dentists who wish to be licensed to practice in countries such as China, Australia and Singapore. The course of study is two to three years in length and covers general dentistry (not any type of specialization). Dentists with an MDS from abroad who wish to practice in the United States must generally take two more years of study to obtain a form of dental accreditation that is recognized by medical licensing boards in this country (DDS or DMD).
Many dentists have a Master of Science (MS) degree in addition to their degree from a dental school. This may represent a post-graduate degree in any field of science (relevant to dentistry or not). If a dentist has an MS, you might want to find out whether it is in a related field. For example, a dentist who has studied chemistry and biology at an advanced level might have insight into biocompatibility of new materials being used in dentistry.
The Master of Science in Dentistry is a dental specialty degree for postgraduate students who wish to pursue a career in dental research. It is achieved through study and direct experience with experimentation in a lab or clinic setting. The dentist must prepare and support a thesis on his or her chosen topic to receive this degree. An MSD may be pursued in a particular specialty or as a standalone degree.
Accreditation as a Master or Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry (MAGD or FAGD) is achieved by going above and beyond the requirements for dental training by completing additional continued education. A Fellow must undergo at least 500 CE hours to qualify and maintain at least 75 CE hours every three years to retain this accreditation. For an MAGD, participants must complete at least 600 approved CE hours and already be a Fellow. These are forms of professional association recognition and do not constitute additional degrees in dental medicine or specialty. Many Top Dentists proudly display this accreditation after their names.
These are forms of accreditation from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Because the ADA does not yet recognize cosmetic dentistry as a specialty, some people view an AACD accreditation as the next best thing. Relatively few dentists have achieved this honor so far. About 250 have the basic level of AACD accreditation and only a few dozen can boast of being a Fellow of American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Commitment to continuing education, high standards for professional ethics and a reputation for consistently excellent work seem to be the underlying qualifications for achieving this accreditation.
The designation Professional Limited Liability Company (PLLC) is commonly found in the name of dental practices. This is simply a term describing how the business is set up from a legal standpoint. It is typically used when two or more dentists own a practice jointly. One owner cannot be held liable for the actions of another owner (the liability of each partner limited). This information only becomes relevant to patients in the event that they sue a provider for malpractice or other misconduct.