Master of Dental Science Programs

Dental postgraduate programs in the UTHSC College of Dentistry offer residents the opportunity to pursue study in the UTHSC College of Graduate Heath Sciences (CGHS) leading to a Master of Dental Science (MDS) degree. Postgraduate programs in Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontology and Prosthodontics require residents to complete the MDS program in order to attain a dental specialty certificate and successfully complete residency training. Postgraduate residents in Endodontics enter the MDS program during their clinical training, but may leave the MDS program prior to completion of degree requirements. Postgraduate residents in Oral Surgery do not participate in the MDS program.

The final MDS research report is a publishable manuscript formatted as required by a selected professional peer-reviewed journal in the subject areas of interest. Only high quality, professionally respected journals may be considered when identifying a publication source.

Point of clarification: Postgraduates participating in dental residency training in the College of Dentistry are designated "residents" by the University. Postgraduates pursuing a MDS degree in the College of Graduate Health Sciences are considered "students" by the University. Postgraduates involved in both dental residency training and MDS degree activities are considered to be both residents and students. These designations are important to appreciate during various aspect of postgraduate education at UTHSC.


Only individuals accepted to postgraduate certificate programs in the UTHSC College of Dentistry that offer a MDS degree option can make application to the MDS Program in the CGHS. Once officially accepted to a dental postgraduate certificate program, residents apply to the MDS Program in the CGHS, indicating a concentration in Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontology, Prosthodontics, or Endodontics. The appropriate application is found on the CGHS Office of Admissions website and is completed electronically.


Expected Progress

MDS Program Activity Timing
Apply to the CGHS. This occurs following acceptance into the College of Dentistry and prior initiating clinical residency training. Summer Year 0
Identify Faculty Research Advisor. Under his/her direction, consider research projects in general terms, initiate literature review, and consider research protocol development. Fall Year 1
Guided by Faculty Research Advisor, develop your Faculty Committee and submit Student Committee Appointment Form to the CGHS. Fall
Finalize protocol and obtain approval from Faculty Committee. Work with Faculty Research Advisor to submit 1st Annual Student Progress Report and submit it to CGHS. Spring
Submit research protocol for funding (optional). Spring
Initiate research project. Fall - Spring Year 2
Work with Faculty Research Advisor to submit 2nd Annual Student Progress Report and submit it to CGHS. Spring
Submit abstract to AADR/IADR for following spring (optional). September Year 3
Present research at Hinman Student Research Symposium (optional). October
Finish research project. Fall
Compose manuscript and present it to Faculty Committee for approval. Work with Faculty Research Advisor to submit Application for Admission to Candidacy to the CGHS. Spring
At least 2-weeks prior to planned oral defense of the research project, announce the defense date, time, and location to the CGHS Dean and post advertisements throughout the College of Dentistry. Following public defense of the research project, submit Report of Final Examination to the CGHS (must occur no later than May 1st in order to participate in June graduation ceremony. Jan - Feb
Work with Faculty Research Advisor to submit Report of Manuscript Submission and provide electronic manuscript to College of Dentistry Associate Dean for Postgraduate Affairs. Submit final manuscript for publication to peer-reviewed journal (must occur no later than May 1st in order to participate in June graduation. April
Work with Faculty Research Advisor to submit Intent to Graduate Form, Graduate Student Clearance Form, and CGHS Exit Interview Form to the CGHS. May
Work with clinical Program Director to complete department-based exit processes, including official clearance by the College of Dentistry, Office of Clinical Affairs. June


General policies, procedures, and requirements in place for dental postgraduate certificate programs apply to MDS degree students as well. Additional procedures, policies, and requirements that apply to students seeking a MDS degree are described in the CGHS Bylaws. Students are strongly encouraged to be familiar with all policies that apply to their training programs.

Postgraduate Advisors

  • Program Chair – The Program Chair (Sidney H. Stein, DMD, PhD) of the MDS Program is the general advisor for all MDS students in the College of Dentistry.
  • Program Director – The student's clinical Program Director (i.e., the clinical director of the student's dental residency program) advises students regarding courses, research, and performance.
  • Faculty Research Committee – The Faculty Research Committee (or Faculty Committee) is a group of individuals gathered to collaborate with the student throughout the course of the MDS research project.
  • Faculty Research Advisor – A single member of the Faculty Committee (formally titled the Faculty Research Advisor) will serve as Chair of the student's Faculty Committee. The Faculty Research Advisor is considered the principal advisor to the student for all aspects of the research and reporting effort. This individual must be qualified by the CGHS to serve in this position. "Faculty Research Advisor" is synonymous with "Faculty Committee Chair."

Faculty Research Committee

A student enrolled in the MDS Program must develop a Faculty Research Committee. No later than the end of the first academic year of study, the student's clinical Program Director, in consultation with the student and the Faculty Research Advisor, will identify a Faculty Research Committee. This committee will minimally consist of three members from the Graduate Faculty; at least two members must belong to the student's department and one member should be from a different department. Additional committee membership is not restricted and may include persons outside the UTHSC possessing unique and helpful qualifications.

Once the Faculty Research Committee is appointed, the Student Committee Appointment Form must be completed, signed by the Program Chair (Sidney H. Stein, DMD, PhD) and submitted to the Dean of the CGHS. It is then the responsibility of the Faculty Research Advisor to convene the committee, at intervals no less than once per year, in order to assist the student's research progress. The Faculty Research Committee must prepare an Annual Student Progress Report for the Program Chair (Sidney H. Stein, DMD, PhD) and Dean of the CGHS. This progress report must at least be completed within the first and second academic years. Completion of the Application for Admission to Candidacy serves as the final report of student progress, which is typically submitted in the third academic year.

Admission to Candidacy

Postgraduate education requires continuous student evaluation, including periodic objective assessments (e.g., GPA, performance on comprehensive examinations, and acceptance of written reports) and subjective appraisal by the faculty relative to the student progress and potential. Continuation of postgraduate study within the CGHS and admission to MDS degree candidacy results from positive action taken by the student's Faculty Research Committee and the student's clinical Program Director. Grades are not the sole criterion used in determining student continuance. Other attributes, primarily those concerned with the level of professionalism expected of a student in a particular discipline, are also considered.

Each postgraduate clinical program within the College of Dentistry has requirements for resident continuation and graduation in addition to requirements set forth by the CGHS. Dental postgraduate residents MUST be familiar with all requirements of the program(s) in which they participate.

Each student enrolled in the MDS Program is responsible for filing an Application for Admission to Candidacy with the CGHS. Application is typically made after two years of postgraduate course work. Only after certification by the student's Faculty Research Committee and the student's clinical Program Director will the student be considered for admission to candidacy. Admission to candidacy status for the MDS degree must be granted no later than the end of the second month of the semester in which the final manuscript is to be presented to the College of Dentistry (and subsequently submitted for publication).

Research Activity

One of the requirements for the MDS degree is to conduct an approved research project that demonstrates a high level of scholarship and the student's ability to conduct independent investigation that contributes to the foundation of knowledge in dentistry. The student, in consultation with his or her Faculty Research Committee, will determine the topic and objectives of the research. While the originality and quality of the research should be above reproach, the scope of the project should be in keeping with the MDS degree level and the extraordinary clinical time commitments necessary in training clinical dental residents. At completion of the research project, students are required to present a public oral defense of their research efforts and a written manuscript suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed, professional journal.

The Manuscript

Format of the manuscript (i.e., the final MDS written report) will adhere to guidelines established for scientific manuscripts published in the peer-reviewed professional journal targeted for submission. This format generally includes an abstract, an introduction summarizing relevant research in the area culminating with a clearly stated research objective, a materials and methods section describing experimental procedures used, a results section detailing outcomes using appropriate statistical methods, and finally a discussion section that summarizes key findings in light of current knowledge and provides a conclusion. A reference section typically appears at the end of the manuscript to list specific professional literature cited within the body of the text. Tables and/or figures, with associated captions, are typically also included.

It is the responsibility of the student, with oversight by the Faculty Research Advisor and the Faculty Research Committee, to ensure that the scientific content, grammar and manuscript format are accurate. The manuscript must be of sufficiently high quality to warrant submission to a peer-reviewed professional journal of substantial scientific impact in the subject area. The student's Faculty Research Committee (monitored by the College of Dentistry) will determine which professional journals are suitable. Prior to manuscript submission, the student must:

  • Receive final approval from his/her Faculty Research Advisor and Faculty Committee.
  • Have completed the Report of Manuscript Submission form and provide it to the College of Dentistry Associate Dean for Postgraduate Affairs for final approval.
  • Provide an electronic copy of the final manuscript to the College of Dentistry Associate Dean for Postgraduate Affairs for final approval.

Oral Defense

The final oral defense of the MDS research effort will be publicized to the University community (at least 2 weeks in advance of the defense) and will be formally conducted by the student's Faculty Research Committee. Upon successful completion of the defense, a Report of Final Examination is signed by all Faculty Research Committee members and forwarded to the Dean of the CGHS.

Rights of Publication

On occasion, ownership of research findings comes into question because many individuals, in addition to the MDS student, are involved in the research effort. There is need to properly acknowledge contributions of the student, the faculty advisors, and in some circumstances special additional assistance provided by others in the scientific effort. Additionally, the work should be made available to the scientific community at-large in a timely fashion. To satisfy these considerations, the College of Dentistry (with support of the College of Graduate Health Sciences) has adopted the following policy regarding the MDS effort.

For a manuscript resulting from MDS project, the MDS student has first right to the creative material produced and first authorship on the manuscript. The student must produce the manuscript with only supervisory input from advisory sources. The student should acknowledge contributors to the research effort in an appropriate manner. Upon manuscript submission for publication, if the student fails timely participation in the normal course of review/revision, the student loses the right of first authorship and the manuscript may continue in the editorial process under first authorship of others associated with the research project. In any case, the student's name will remain associated with the manuscript, and a copy of the manuscript will be sent to the student for editorial commentary with each subsequent revision. The Faculty Research Committee and the student's Department, with the student's knowledge and listing the student as first author, may submit abstracts to professional journals and meetings, based on the MDS research.

Students should be aware that this policy applies only to the UTHSC College of Dentistry. If non-college faculty members are involved in the MDS project, then the rights to publication must be determined at the first meeting of the Faculty Research Committee.

Similarly, when the research is made possible by grant funds where the student is not the principal investigator, there needs to be a clear agreement regarding publication (specific journals, order of authorship, submission timing, etc.) and possession of the data (measurements, radiographs, slides, digital images, etc.). Unless unusual circumstances prevail, these materials are the property of, and are expected to be retained by, the principal investigator of the grant.

Application for a MDS Degree

A candidate for the MDS degree must make application for the degree with the Dean of the CGHS no later than two months before the commencement at which awarding of the degree is expected. Candidates must meet all deadlines and requirements for completion of the MDS degree, as set forth by the College of Graduate Health Sciences, the College of Dentistry, and the applicable dental residency program.

Completion of the MDS Program

Before a MDS degree is awarded the following, without exception, are required:

  • The academic, clinical, and residency requirements established by the College of Dentistry and the student's residency program must be satisfied. This includes attainment of a dental specialty certificate granted by the College of Dentistry.
  • All responsibility for patient care must be discharged according to Departmental policy and the College of Dentistry's Office of Clinical Affairs.
  • The student must be enrolled during the semester in which the degree is awarded. Students enrolled in a MDS degree program must be registered for the semester in which the final oral defense is conducted.
  • Delinquent financial accounts, including tuition payments, fees, library fines, parking tickets, etc., which are due the University must be paid.
  • Keys and identification cards must be turned in according to University rules.
  • A formal exit process in the CGHS must be followed (the Graduation Student Clearance Form).
  • Exit processes in the College of Dentistry are department specific. However, all postgraduate dental residents must be cleared for graduation through the Office of Clinical Affairs.
  • The final, approved version of the MDS manuscript must be managed according to rules outlines above and rules governing publication in the selected professional journal.
  • Students enrolled in a MDS degree program are required to attend University commencement exercises at the conclusion of their program unless formally dismissed from attendance via written requests to the Dean of the CGHS.

Waiver of Routine Resident Progress to Completion

Generally, dental postgraduate programs in Endodontics, Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontics, and Prosthodontics involve: (1) rigorous clinical training in the UTHSC College of Dentistry leading to a dental specialty certificate, and (2) clinically valuable scientific research in the UTHSC College of Graduate Health Sciences leading to a MDS degree. For residents enrolled in these programs, successful completion and graduation necessitates fulfillment of requirements specified by the College of Dentistry and the College of Graduate Health Sciences. Upon satisfactory completion of all requirements, the awarding of a dental specialty certificate and a MDS degree are inter-dependent and occur simultaneously at the end of the formal educational experience.

If circumstances necessitate deviation from the normal educational process and the typical awarding of certificate and degree, the resident's clinical Program Director must petition the Associate Dean of Postgraduate Affairs, in the College of Dentistry, for a Waiver of Routine Resident Progress to Completion. This request must document, in detail the rationale for special consideration, the resident's existing circumstances, the need to deviate from the norm, expected timing of residency completion, expected timing of research program completion, anticipated graduation dates from the College of Dentistry and the College of Graduate Health Sciences, and any additional information pertinent to the situation.

Once the Waiver of Routine Resident Progress to Completion is accepted by the Associate Dean of Postgraduate Affairs as sufficiently detailed, consultation with other interested parties may be necessary (e.g., resident in question, clinical Program Director, Department Chair, Faculty Research Advisor, Faculty Research Committee, MDS Program Chair, Dean of the College of Dentistry, Dean of the College of Graduate Health Sciences, etc.). The Associate Dean of Postgraduate Affairs will consider all available information, determine the legitimacy and timing of the requested waiver, and inform all parties affected by the waiver regarding the decision moving forward.

Academic Due Process: If a Waiver of Routine Progress to Completion is initiated but denied, a written request to appeal this decision may be submitted to the office of the Dean in the College of Dentistry. The request must be submitted within 5 working days of receipt of the original notification. A committee will be developed by the Dean in the College of Dentistry, with collaboration of the Dean in the College of Graduate Health Sciences, and will gather to address the appeal process. The appeal hearing will be promptly scheduled, permitting reasonable time for preparation. At the appeal hearing, all parties will have the opportunity to present pertinent documentation and testimony, which may include statements by, and questioning of, other involved individuals. Any person(s), excluding legal counsel, may appear before the committee to contribute to the process. Conduct of committee proceedings and the appeal hearing will occur without legal counsel present. Result of the appeal hearing will be communicated in writing to all interested parties within 5 working days of the hearing, excluding holidays and administrative closings. Decisions of this committee are final.

Transfer Credit Policy

Graduate-level courses taken at other institutions for graduate credit, completed with a grade of B or better, and accepted by the student's clinical residency Program Director in the College of Dentistry, may be transferred into the student's UTHSC degree (MDS) program. While the final decision to permit credit transfer is made by the Program Director, consultation with didactic Course Directors, Faculty Research Committee members, and other College of Graduate Health Sciences Administrators, at the discretion of the Program Director, may be warranted. The total number of hours that may be transferred will be determined by the student's Program Director, but at least 50% of the credit hours for a MDS degree must be earned at UTHSC. Students seeking to transfer more than 1 semester's courses from another institution must do so in writing to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Graduate Health Sciences and the Associate Dean for Postgraduate Affairs in the College of Dentistry.

Official transcripts must be received directly by the Registrar from the previous institution(s) and appropriately authenticated before transfer of graduate credit will be approved. Credits transferred into the student's MDS program will not affect the minimum residency requirements and normally will not be included in calculations of the student's grade point average.

The student's Program Director must inform the Registrar in writing of non-UTHSC courses to be added to a student's transcript. The following information is required: (1) student name, (2) course name and number, (3) name of other institution, (4) whether the course is for credit only or for both credit and computing the student's GPA.

Students taking a course at an institution other than UTHSC must (1) request that an official transcript be sent from the institution where the course was taken to the UTHSC Registrar upon completing the course and (2) notify the Registrar that a transcript is being sent.

Dunn Dental building photo

Contact Us

UTHSC College of Dentistry
Office of Postgraduate Affairs

875 Union Avenue
Memphis, Tennessee 38163

Office: 901-448-6930
Fax: 901-448-1294

Associate Dean
Postgraduate Affairs

David R. Cagna, D.M.D., M.S.

Administrative Coordinator

Nancy Wilson