Dentists: What is a DDS?
The acronym DDS stands for Doctor of Dental Surgery, a degree awarded to dentists who have completed 2-4 years of undergraduate schooling and then 3-4 years of dental school. Some schools in the United States award a DMD, Doctor of Dental Medicine, degree but that is simply another name for the same advanced dental degree. Dental school applicants must pass the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and make it through a highly competitive selection process. Incoming dental students have an average GPA of 3.5 and very high entry testing scores. Recent trends in dental school acceptance have admission advisers looking more closely at undergraduate degrees and extracurricular activities, as admission numbers have soared.
Many dental schools are increasing their coursework prerequisites for a DDS degree to include more biology, chemistry, physics and even a year of organic chemistry. Applied science coursework (such as pharmacology and anatomy and physiology) are also very helpful in gaining acceptance to dental school. As with many advanced degree programs preference falls to well rounded students who demonstrate leadership, volunteerism and advanced knowledge of dentistry.
Students spend the first couple of years in dental school focusing on lab and classroom based learning, followed by a couple of years working with licensed dentists in teaching clinics. Once students have graduated from dental school and have their DDS degree, they must take an oral and practical examination to receive their state-specific dental license from the National Board of Dental Examinations. This qualifies the dentist to be a general dentist or family dentist.
After completing a DDS degree, some dental school graduates continue their education in a specialized area of dental practice. Once their advanced training and a residency are finished, dentists are awarded their certification of specialty training and can take on other titles such as ‘Orthodontist‘, Cosmetic Dentist, or ‘Oral Surgeon‘ indicating their area of specialized expertise.
From there, a newly certified dentist either becomes an associate in another dentist’s practice or starts his or her own dental practice. Average salaries range from the mid-80’s to low 100’s for an established dentist. Location is very important in determining salary factors, as many smaller towns and cities have fewer dentist practice options – providing a much larger client base with less competition and potentially much lower cost of living.