The Dental Team
A dentist may be certified as a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). There is no difference between the two degrees; dentists who have a DMD or DDS have the same education. Universities have the discretion to determine what degree is awarded.
Both degrees use the same curriculum requirements set by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation. Generally, three or more years of undergraduate education plus four years of dental school is required to graduate and become a dentist.
State licensing boards accept either degree as equivalent, and both degrees allow licensed individuals to practice the same scope of dentistry.
Additional post-graduate training is required to become a dental specialist.
Registered Dental Hygienists (RDH) are licensed oral health professionals that focus on preventing and treating oral diseases. They are graduates of accredited dental hygiene education programs in colleges and universities, and in Washington state they must take five written and clinical exams before they are allowed to practice.
In addition to treating patients under the supervision of a dentist, dental hygienists work as educators, researchers and administrators.
The duties of a dental assistant are among the most comprehensive and varied in the dental office. The dental assistant performs many tasks requiring both interpersonal and technical skills under the dentist's close supervision, including oral inspection, patient education in dental hygiene, administration of fluoride treatment, application of sealants and administration of nitrous oxide (among others).