Best Doctor of Dental Surgery Programs 2021

Best Doctor of Dental Surgery Programs badge

Dentists diagnose and treat medical conditions affecting the teeth, mouth, and jaw. They also provide cosmetic services such as teeth whitening treatments. Dentists can specialize in one of many subfields.

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons remove tumors, rebuild mouths and eye sockets, and fix cleft palates. These professionals help patients achieve a higher quality of life and, in some cases, live longer than they would without treatment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that oral surgeons earn a higher median salary than dentists in other specialties. Additionally, oral surgeons in private practice settings earn the highest median salary.

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Applicants pursuing doctor of dental surgery programs must pass the Dental Admission Test from the American Dental Association (ADA). To sit for the test, candidates need a college degree and prerequisite undergraduate coursework in biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.

Top 10 Doctor of Dental Surgery Programs


  • What does a doctor of dental surgery do?

    Doctors of dental surgery perform different tasks depending on their specialization. For example, these doctors may extract teeth, install implants, or rebuild facial structures.


  • What is the difference between doctor of dental surgery and doctor of dental medicine?

    DMD and DDS degrees require learners to complete an ADA-accredited curriculum. Graduates with either type of degree possess the same skill set and qualify to perform the same type of work.


  • How long does it take to complete a doctor of dental surgery degree?

    DDS degrees typically require four years to complete. In addition to completing coursework, learners participate in clinical rotations and select electives to specialize in a certain area.


  • Can I complete a dental surgery degree online?

    Doctor of dental surgery degrees require extensive hands-on training. As a result, most universities only deliver dental surgery programs on campus.


Why Pursue a Doctor of Dental Surgery Degree?



Doctor of dental surgery programs prepare students for fulfilling careers assisting patients. Graduates of DDS programs often experience the following personal and professional benefits.

Growing Field
The BLS projects employment for dentists to increase 3% from 2019-2029, about as fast as the average projected growth rate for all professions.
High Median Salary
Dentists in the United States earn a median salary that is considerably higher than the average for all occupations. Dentists in Washington, Virginia, and South Dakota earn the highest median salaries, according to the BLS.
Personal Satisfaction
Dentists often take pride in treating patients and promoting oral health. These professionals witness their work’s positive impact on individual’s lives.
Private Practice
Dentists with extensive experience can open a private practice to treat patients locally. Opening their own practice allows dentists to set their own hours and mentor less experienced professionals.
Specializations
Individuals in the field can specialize in areas such as anesthesiology, orthodontics, and pediatric dentistry. Students explore specializations while in school and refine their skills during residencies.

How Does College Accreditation Work?

Doctor of Dental Surgery Specializations



While pursuing DDS degrees, students typically specialize in one or more areas. An individual’s specialization impacts their career options. Learners in doctor of dental surgery programs specialize by taking upper-division courses and gaining supervised experience.


  • Anesthesiology

    Dentist anesthesiologists administer medication to ensure patients remain comfortable during procedures. During their residency, prospective anesthesiologists master airway management and internal medicine fundamentals. These professionals need strong teamwork and collaboration skills.


  • Dental Public Health

    Professionals who specialize in dental public health create disease-prevention programs for communities. They also collaborate with other dentists, private organizations, and government agencies to reduce barriers to obtaining dental services.


  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery

    Oral and maxillofacial surgeons repair patients’ faces and jaws, excise tumors, and remove wisdom teeth. Other common surgeries involve removing impacted teeth. These professionals can work in hospitals and private practices.


  • Orthodontics

    Orthodontists treat patients with dental and oral irregularities, such as crooked teeth. They work directly with patients and implement treatments such as braces. Orthodontists inspect patients’ progress during routine checkups and remove any hardware when treatment ends.


  • Pediatric Dentistry

    Pediatric dentists work with children and adolescents. These dentists teach patients good oral health habits. Other responsibilities include referring patients to orthodontists, administering preventative care, and diagnosing gum disease.


  • Prosthodontics

    Disease and injury can disfigure patients’ mouths, making eating and communicating difficult. Prosthodontists design and restore patients’ teeth and mouths using lifelike prosthetics. These professionals may work with a specific group of patients, such as individuals with oral cancer.


Courses in a DDS Program



Doctor of dental surgery programs require core and elective courses. While completing core coursework, learners develop the academic foundation they need to succeed during clinical rotations. Degree-seekers also pursue a specialization through upper-division electives.

The following sample curriculum describes three courses typical to DDS programs. However, course titles and requirements vary by school. Many universities post detailed course syllabi online, and prospective students can contact admissions advisors for information about individual programs’ academic experience and graduation requirements.

Local anesthesia refers to the shots dentists give patients before simple dental procedures, such as cavity fillings and root canals. This class covers the process of preparing and administering anesthetics. Learners also prepare to respond to medical emergencies that may occur during procedures, and they examine how different anesthetics affect the body.

All dentists must know how to recognize diseases that afflict the oral cavity, including diseases they do not treat. This course introduces students to various medical conditions, differential diagnosis, and treatment methods. Practicing dentists use this knowledge to refer patients to appropriate medical professionals.

Dentists in every specialization must be able to treat individuals with developmental or acquired disabilities. This course explores techniques to treat patients with cerebral palsy, ALS, or muscular dystrophy. Like other core courses in doctor of dental surgery programs, this class typically involves a clinical rotation.

Dentist Licensing and Certification Requirements

Like all medical professionals, dentists must meet their state’s licensure requirements. These requirements vary by state but typically include an advanced degree from an ADA-accredited dental school, passing scores on one or more examinations, and completion of an approved residency program. Licensure candidates must also undergo a criminal background check. Dentists qualify for annual license renewal by taking continuing education courses.

In addition to a license, many dentistry professionals obtain professional certification. Dental specialty boards certify professionals in areas such as anesthesiology, dental public health, and prosthodontics. Generally, candidates for certification must pass a rigorous examination, and some boards allow doctoral students to begin the certification process before graduation.

Certified dentists must typically complete professional development requirements to renew their credentials.

Scholarships for Dental Students

    Students attending doctor of dental surgery programs can apply for scholarships and other financial aid opportunities to reduce the financial burden of earning a degree. Scholarships such as those below can help degree-seekers minimize student debt. Before applying, learners should research each scholarship program’s application requirements and deadlines.

  • American Student Dental Association Scholarships

    Who Can Apply: ASDA curates a list of private scholarships for dental students. Application requirements may include a dean’s recommendation, financial need, or membership in a minority group. Each scholarship maintains a unique application deadline.
    Amount: Varies

  • Chinese American Medical Society Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: Chinese American medical and dental students can apply for this award. Application materials include a resume, two recommendation letters, and proof of good academic standing. Interested students should apply by March 31.
    Amount: $5,000

  • Health Professions Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: The Indian Health Service awards this scholarship to members of federally recognized tribes who are preparing for careers in the medical field. Scholarship recipients agree to practice in an underserved community after completing their residency.
    Amount: Varies

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