Dentistry education - American EducationA four-year course of postgraduate study leading to a D.D.S. (doctor of dental surgery) or D.M.D. (doctor of dental medicine) degree. Like other professional degrees, holders of the D.D.S. and D.M.D. must pass licensing examinations before they can practice their profession. Although dentistry itself dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, most practitioners learned their skills through an apprenticeship system until 1840, when the world’s first dental school, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, was established in Baltimore, Maryland. With the simultaneous founding of the American Society of Dental Surgery, the conversion of dentistry into a profession had begun, and by the end of the 19th century, most leading medical schools had added schools of dentistry. Dentistry education has expanded to include eight specialties: oral surgery, orthodontics (correction of tooth positioning), prosthodontics (replacing missing teeth), periodontics (gum and bone diseases), endodontics (root canal work), pediatric dentistry, oral pathology and public health dentistry.
In addition to professional work, there are specialized technical areas of dentistry that do not require dental school education. Dental hygiene, for example, requires only a two-year associate degree from one of the nearly 200 schools of dental hygiene accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association. Graduates must pass a written and clinical examination to obtain a license to practice. A second technical area requiring only an associate degree is the production and repair of dental fittings and appliances.