Skip to main content
Toggle Menu of ADA WebSites
ADA Websites
Toggle Search Area
Toggle Menu
e-mail Print Share

General Dentistry

Definition of Dentistry

Dentistry is defined as the evaluation, diagnosis, prevention and/or treatment (nonsurgical, surgical or related procedures) of diseases, disorders and/or conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and/or the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body; provided by a dentist, within the scope of his/her education, training and experience, in accordance with the ethics of the profession and applicable law. (As adopted by the 1997 ADA House of Delegates)

DDS/DMD Definitions

DDS — doctor of dental surgery

DMD — doctor of dental medicine

Indicates the degree awarded upon graduation from dental school to become a general dentist. There is no difference between the two degrees; dentists who have a DMD or DDS have the same education. Universities have the prerogative to determine what degree is awarded. Both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Generally, three or more years of undergraduate education plus four years of dental school is required to graduate and become a general dentist. State licensing boards accept either degree as equivalent, and both degrees allow licensed individuals to practice the same scope of general dentistry. Additional post-graduate training is required to become a dental specialist, such as an orthodontist, periodontist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Interest Areas in General Dentistry

An interest area in general dentistry is a well-defined body of evidence-based scientific and clinical knowledge underlying general dentistry, but is a more focused, complex and distinct field identified by advanced knowledge, techniques and procedures. The American Dental Association believes that the public is best served if the profession is oriented primarily to general practice. However, the public and profession benefits substantially when interest areas are developed and advanced through education, practice and research. 

Today’s rapidly emerging technologies and science are providing more sophisticated and complex solutions to problems encountered in general dentistry. The advances are changing and enhancing the dental practice environment. 

Interest areas in general dentistry must meet the specified Criteria for Recognition of Interest Areas in General Dentistry (PDF) in order to be formally recognized by the American Dental Association. The first interest area in general dentistry to be recognized by the ADA House of Delegates is Operative Dentistry, Cariology and Biomaterials. The definition of this interest area has been approved by the ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure:

Operative Dentistry, Cariology and Biomaterials: That branch of general dentistry concerned with the advanced knowledge, expertise and clinical skills in operative dentistry, restorative dental materials, educational theory, techniques, and teaching skills. It includes scientific research and knowledge in the areas of cariology and advanced scientific clinical training in restorative materials and biomaterials.

The ADA Council on Dental Education and Licensure has developed a process, including an application form, to consider requests for recognizing interest areas in general dentistry. Such requests are submitted to the Council and ultimately acted on by the ADA House of Delegates.
Applicants must complete an application for recognition. Please contact the Council on Dental Education and Licensure at 312.440.2825 to request an application today.

Council on Dental Education and Licensure
211 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611