Why is dentistry a profession in its own right not a branch of medicine?

I don’t understand why it is that dentistry is separate from all the other medical specialties. By separate I mean dentists do a different course at university, they gain a different qualification, they don’t get the title “Dr”, dentistry isn’t normally practiced in hospital and isn’t normally available on the NHS (in the UK). Why isn’t dentistry just another medical specialty like urology, nephrology etc?

Best Answer: Good question, and in recent years there has been some discussion in the UK about making dentistry a medical specialty. There is already a medical specialty called maxillo-facial surgery where the practitioner has to be both a registered dentist and a registered medical practitioner. Dentistry is practised in hospitals - it's just that as in medical general practice most people don't need that level of care and treatment.The NHS argument is misleading (although dentistry is available on the NHS either free or subsidised) as that's about how dentists (technically general dental practitioners) are paid by the government, rather than anything to do with their training or qualifications. The answer is that dentistry and medicine were already well established as separate professions before the medical profession began to develop specialties as we know them today. This was reflected in the way the UK began to regulate the professions (General Medical Council for doctors, General Dental Council for dentists) , and this has persisted. My guess would be that if we were starting from scratch today dentistry would be one of the medical specialties. However the history and the fact that dentistry would probably be swallowed up by the bigger profession means that they will probably stay separate.

5 Comments on "Why is dentistry a profession in its own right not a branch of medicine?"

  1. thepresident001 | June 23, 2010 at 5:38 am |

    Because dentsts don’t actually heal people I’d imagine. They don’t prescribe medicine or diagnose conditions. Although there is a doctor of dental medicine degree as far as I know. It might be called something different though.

  2. Historically, the dentist was separate from medicine because we didn’t know enough about dentistry for it to be very medical. Often, you would see a barber/dentist. Seriously. Then an us versus them attitude developed with physicians. Though what is going on in your mouth may be connected to other parts of your body, many medical doctors would say that a dentists doesn’t need to understand kidney function to handle your teeth.

    In the United States, a common dental degree is DDS, Doctor of Dental Science.

    An oral surgeon is an MD in the United States, but I’m fairly sure that in the United Kingom, and oral surgeon gets additional training after dental school, not medical school.

  3. Sarasometimes | June 23, 2010 at 6:08 am |

    In US they are Doctors of Dental Medicicne (DDM) or Doctors of Dental Surgery (DDS). I think it is viewed that way because within Dentistry there are many specialties, Orthodontics, Periodontics, Endodontics…Dentists study about the body as a whole in addition to in depth study of the head, teeth… Good question. Back in the old times barbers were also surgeons and dentists.

  4. DukeofSloth | June 23, 2010 at 9:51 am |

    Good question, and in recent years there has been some discussion in the UK about making dentistry a medical specialty. There is already a medical specialty called maxillo-facial surgery where the practitioner has to be both a registered dentist and a registered medical practitioner.

    Dentistry is practised in hospitals – it’s just that as in medical general practice most people don’t need that level of care and treatment.The NHS argument is misleading (although dentistry is available on the NHS either free or subsidised) as that’s about how dentists (technically general dental practitioners) are paid by the government, rather than anything to do with their training or qualifications.

    The answer is that dentistry and medicine were already well established as separate professions before the medical profession began to develop specialties as we know them today. This was reflected in the way the UK began to regulate the professions (General Medical Council for doctors, General Dental Council for dentists) , and this has persisted. My guess would be that if we were starting from scratch today dentistry would be one of the medical specialties. However the history and the fact that dentistry would probably be swallowed up by the bigger profession means that they will probably stay separate.

  5. Well, ‘dentists don’t prescribe medication or make diagnosis hence aren’t considered as doctors’
    in that case a neurosurgeon for example, should not also be considered a doctor because they perform surgeries (so does an oral surgeon) and do not make diagnosis or prescribe medicines.
    Not considering dentists as doctors is nothing but an act of discrimination in my view. They treat the oral cavity afterall and cure ailments related to it.

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