Abbreviations like A.A.C.D. or F.A.G.D. after a dentist's name may be confusing. What does that mean to you, as a patient? Should you choose a dentist with a D.M.D., or a D.D.S.? Are dentists with M.A.G.D. after their names superior to those without it? Savvy consumers should educate themselves when establishing long term relationships, especially with health care providers. Here's a helpful who's who in dentistry...
D.D.S. - Doctor of Dental Surgery or Doctor of Dental Science. This is a four-year dental degree that is required before a dentist can be licensed to practice in the United States. Dentists with training in other countries must complete approximately two years of additional coursework in the U.S. before they are eligible for licensing here.
D.M.D. - Doctor of Medical Dentistry. There is no difference between a D.M.D. and a D.D.S. degree. The American Dental Association states that the credentials are identical; dental students at the University of Pittsburgh, Tufts, the University of Oregon Health Sciences Center and the University of Louisville earn D.M.D. degrees. All other schools confer D.D.S.
F.A.G.D. - Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry. General dentists do not specialize in any one facet of dentistry. According to the A.G.D., an F.A.G.D. "has been recognized by other dentists as a leader who is committed to quality patient care through continuing dental education." An F.A.G.D. dentist must earn a minimum of 500 approved continuing dental education credits; pass a comprehensive 400-question examination; and must also be an Academy of General Dentistry member for five continuous years.
M.A.G.D. - Master of the Academy of General Dentistry. To achieve status as a Master, A.G.D. members must first be Fellows in the Academy of General Dentistry. They then must earn an additional 600 approved continuing education credits -- of which 400 hours are hands-on courses. A Master of the Academy of General Dentistry has taken a total of 1,100 hours of continuing education, with courses in 16 disciplines in dentistry, such as periodontics, orthodontics and dental implants.
To remain a member of the A.G.D., a dentist must complete at least 75 hours of continuing education every three years.
R.D.H. - A valuable member of the dental team, a registered dental hygienist is a college graduate of an accredited dental hygiene program. She is licensed in most states to clean teeth, administer local anesthesia and nitrous oxide, remove subgingival (below the gum) calculus, apply fluoride and provide patient education. The R.D.H. is also required to maintain continuing education units.