How to Address a Dentist

———-Also in this post:
—–—–—–Retired Dentist
—–—–—–Dentist and Spouse
—–—–—–Dentist  Who Has Lost License

How to Address a Dentist: Doctor of Dentistry

The rule is either ‘Dr.‘ before, or the post-nominal abbreviation for their degree after. Never both at the same time.
NOTE: There are two degrees granted to dentists: DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry or Doctor of Dental Medicine). Some universities award DDS, others DMD – they basically the same degree. Be sure you use the right one for your dentist.

—-Envelope or address block on an emaill:
——–(Full Name), DDS/DMD—— See NOTE above
——–(Name of practice)

—-Envelope, social correspondence:
——–Dr. (Full Name)

—-Letter salutation for either :
—-—-Dear Dr. (Surname):

—-Note: it is never Dr. (Full Name), DDS/DMD


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address a Retired Dentist?

Dentist continue to be addressed as ‘Dr. (Name)’  when retired.  You included his or  her professional post-nominals (e.g., “DDS”) on official correspondence, but now that he or she is retired, you use the social form – Dr. (Full Name).

—-Envelope or address block on an email:
—-—-Dr. John Smith

—-—-Dr. Smith

– Robert Hickey

Forms of Address: How a conversation begins can have a huge impact on how the conversation - even the entire relationship - develops.

How to Address a Dentist & His Spouse?

When addressing a letter to a dentist and his wife, do you use ‘Dr. and Mrs. John H. Smith, DDS’.  Or is it either ‘Dr.’ or ‘DDS’?  I appreciate your help.
—-—-—-– Debra K

Dear Debra K:
A letter to a dentist and his spouse is probably social.  Post-nominals abbreviations are not used on social correspondence. There are several ways a wife’s name can be written. For a husband’s name there is only one.

—–On a joint social letter – depending on the specific names, options would be:
—–—–Dr. John H. Smith and Mrs. Smith
—–—–Dr. John H. Smith and Ms. Amy Stevens
—–—–Dr. John H. Smith and Dr. Susan K. Smith
—–—–Dr. and Mrs. John H. Smith
—–—–Dr. Linda Smith and Mr. Henry Stevens

—–—–—–– Robert Hickey

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Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How to Address a Physician Who Lost His License?

I am involved in a case where the person on the other side is a physician who lost his license, with good reason, in every state in the US where he ever held one. Should this person still be addressed and referred to as Dr. Last Name? (i.e. Dr. Smith)

Various judges and attorneys have weighed in on this subject. A definitive answer from you would be much appreciated.
—-—-—-– S.B. in Chico

Dear S.B., How to Address an Osteopath

I say he continues to be addressed as Dr. (Name).  But it is not an only-one-answer situation.

—-#1) He becomes Mr.: By custom, U.S. elected officials are addressed as the Honorable (Full Name), unless they are removed from office or leave in disgrace. There is no protocol police force out there to enforce it, but that’s the custom. So, if you think of it that way address as ‘Dr.’ would have to go away.

—-#2) He stays Dr.: The honorific ‘Dr.’ is not issued by the local medical society. The locality issues licenses to practice in their jurisdiction. Retired physicians who no longer maintain their license are still addressed as ‘Dr. (name)’. So, addressing as ‘Dr.’ is not limited to having a current license.

—-#3) He stays Dr.: One is a Doctor, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is separate from having a particular job, like chief of staff at a hospital or chairman of the department of surgery. Those are offices one might be forced out of, but one remains a Dr.

—-#4) He stays Dr.: Doctors, ambassadors an military personnel all have been granted a rank. When one has a rank one is addressed by rank in both professional and social situations. E.g., a physician is addressed Dr. (name) while seeing patients (present as a licensed medical professional) at the hospital. On weekends, when he is washing his car in his driveway (not present as a doctor) he’s ALSO addressed as ‘Dr. (name)’.

– Robert Hickey  How to Address a Chiropractor   How to Address an Optometrist How to Address an Osteopath


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”