Should dentists become 'oral physicians'? No, dentistry must remain dentistry

Leon A. Assael

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Dentistry is not an allied health profession. It is not a paramedical profession. It is time that dentistry be recognized as the profession that offers patients some of the most complex surgery performed on the human body - namely, restorative dentistry and rehabilitation of the masticatory system. Dentistry is the only anatomically focused health care profession that is university-based and for which primary care responsibility is maintained by the profession. An inferiority complex about what it means to be a dentist has served only to confuse the public and bring us further from our goal of improving the health of all our patients. This inferiority complex is driven by the public and the medical profession, neither of which understands how dentistry fits into overall health care. It is essential that every academic health center have oral health education as an integrated part of health care education for dentists, physicians, nurses, allied dental personel, physical therapists, psychologists and all who receive university-based health care education. In this way, all the health professions and the public will see dentistry and oral health as essential to patients' overall health. The idea of emulating those who do not have the strength of basic-science education, practice complexity, surgical skills or community status by seizing a new title will not elevate the profession for the future. The public knows what a dentist is. It is our task to inform the public about the capabilities of dentists and the value of oral health and our profession. We can accomplish this best by assuring that our profession's name, "dentistry," is understood to represent one of the world's most accomplished surgical endeavors, one that is thoroughly integrated into the fabric of health care. Thus, good oral health will be thoroughly integrated into what it means to be healthy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)439+441+443+445+447-449
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2004


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