What Are the Different Types of Dental Degrees?

Are you interested in the different opportunities available for practicing dental healthcare? From a graduate degree in endodontics to an associate's degree in dental assisting, dental degrees offer a wide range of specialization possibilities. Schools offering Dental Assisting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Degrees to Become a General Dentist

The Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) and the Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degrees differ only in name. Both prepare you to practice as a general dentist. In these programs, you will study dental anatomy and nutrition. You will also explore oral disease prevention and dental operation procedures. You will gain general knowledge of oral and maxillofacial radiology and pathology, prosthodontics, endodontics, periodontics and orthodontics.

Information about Dental Careers

Mean Salary (May 2018) $175,840 (for dentists)
Key Skills Patience, communication skills, physical stamina, dexterity
Licensure All states require a dental license; a license is also required for practicing dental specialties.
Work Environment You can work in a small office or a practice with multiple dentists.
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 19% growth (for all dentists)  

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Degrees for Specialized Dentistry

To focus on a specific area of dentistry, you will usually earn a master's degree or take a postgraduate certificate program after completing your DDS/DDM. Most specializations fall into the following categories:

Pediatric Dentistry

After completing your DDS/DDM degree, you can earn a certificate or a master's degree in pediatric dentistry if you're interested in practicing as a general dentist for children and adolescents. These programs focus on meeting the needs of all patients in this age group, from healthy children to sick or disabled children. Both certificate and master's degree programs can be structured to meet the criteria for certification from the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry.

Oral and Maxillofacial Care

To become an oral or maxillofacial surgeon, you can earn a master's degree or a postgraduate certificate in oral or maxillofacial surgery. You'll learn to perform general and specialized surgery using anesthesia.

If you earn a master's degree or a certificate in oral and maxillofacial pathology, you'll explore the causes and nature of oral diseases, and you'll learn how to treat these issues through surgery and medication.

If you want to practice oral and maxillofacial radiology, you can earn a master's degree in this specialty. In this program, you'll learn how to use radiation to treat oral and maxillofacial diseases. This degree can also lead to research and teaching roles, and qualifies graduates to pursue certification from the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology.


As an orthodontist with a master's degree or a certificate in orthodontics, you'll specialize in correcting dental abnormalities. In the orthodontic program, you'll explore facial and cranial growth, and you'll learn how to adjust irregularities through surgery or corrective devices.


You can earn either a master's degree or a postgraduate certificate in periodontics if you're interested in treating jaw and gum diseases. These programs include clinical and research experiences along with treatment plans, types of therapies and dental implantology.


If you choose to earn a master's degree or a postgraduate certificate in prosthodontics, you'll learn about different methods for replacing missing teeth. In this program, topics you'll cover include fixed, removable and implant prosthetics.


With a graduate degree or a certificate in endodontics, you'll treat root canal and dental pulp disorders. These programs address the structure of the jaw and teeth, and you'll learn how to perform advanced surgery.

Dental Public Health

You could earn a master's degree in dental public health if you're interested in educating the community about dental health. You'll explore common dental problems and their causes in the United States. You'll also research and study outbreaks of oral diseases.

Dental Assistant, Hygienist and Technician Degrees

If you want to assist a dentist during operations and perform other basic duties in a dental office, you can earn an associates' degree in dental assisting. This program will teach you dental terminology and will acquaint you with the tools used. You'll learn how to keep equipment sterile and organized. Coursework and hands-on experiences will also teach you about managing and preventing health hazards and performing chair-side assistance.

To become a dental hygienist, you can earn an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree in dental hygiene. In these programs, a few of the subjects you'll cover include facial and oral anatomy, oral problem prevention and dental equipment use. You'll also learn about treating people with special dental needs.

If you're interested in creating prosthodontic or orthodontic devices, you could earn an associate's degree in dental laboratory technology. You'll learn about modeling materials, color matching and porcelain use. You'll also learn how to construct dentures, bridges and crowns.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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