What are the primary differences between dentistry and medicine?

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What are the primary differences between dentistry and medicine

Not just the United States, but several countries around the world consider oral health as something different from the rest of the body. Insurance, payment systems, physician networks, and medicine’s education system remains separated from oral care for decades.

Difference between medicine and dentistry degree


After completing their science-related degree and acceptance tests, both dental and medical school students need to complete four years of rigorous study.

Doctor of Medical Dentists (D.M.D.) degree or Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.) degree is awarded to the dentist after completion of the dental degree course. Both degrees are almost similar when it comes to the course structure.

Completing the four years dental school program makes them eligible for admission in a specialization course as per their areas of interest in oral care. Some of the areas of specialization are endodontics, periodontics, and oral surgery. The timeframe for specialization training courses (residency) is two years. However, in the case of oral surgery, it can be between four to six years as well.

The dentists need to apply for practicing license and clear the concerned tests for the same. The procedure may vary from one state to the other.

As a part of dentistry, dentists are trained to diagnose and offer treatment for oral health problems, including teeth and gum diseases.

Cleaning teeth, locating and filling cavities, assisting oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and prescribing medicines are some of the primary responsibilities of a dentist. They work at dental offices owned by them or may run the same in a partnership.

Dental care experts perform oral examinations and use x-rays to determine the extent of the issues. Then, perform restorative or cosmetic procedures to treat the same. Dental surgeons are trained to perform teeth, soft tissues, and support bone surgeries. They can also examine issues related to the jaw, tongue, salivary glands, head, and neck muscles. Put simply; they are trained to detect, diagnose abnormalities related to the mouth and nearby areas.


A medical degree focuses on the health and wellness of the entire body. After the competition of the medical degree, the physician can opt for an advanced degree course like Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) and Masters Degree. Else, they can clear the state licensure exams after graduation and go for post-doctoral training in a specialty area before starting their practice. It involves training individuals to focus on a particular body system.

Medical doctors work at doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals, and treat patients suffering from a wide range of issues. Their tasks may vary depending on the work experience, place of work, and specialization course that the doctor has completed after obtaining the medical degree.

Checking and updating the patient’s medical history, examining injuries, reviewing diagnostic results, prescribing medicines, administering vaccinations, and monitoring the patient’s progress while he or she is under treatment are primary responsibilities of a medical doctor.

Difference between their Lifestyle

Physicians, as well as dentists, are highly trained health care professionals. One must choose the field based on areas of interests, abilities, lifestyle, and work environment that he or she can manage to sustain.

When it comes to the dentist vs. doctor’s quality of life, dentists enjoy a better lifestyle with less work stress. They work only during the selected working hours on weekdays. A selected few do handle after-hour emergencies, but most of them remain sole practitioners and work with assistants, hygienists as well as other office staff.

Physicians, on the other hand, need to be ready to work for eight to ten hours a day or longer. They can run their private clinic or join one or more local hospitals.

Founders of the world’s first dental college wanted dentistry to be a part of medicine

Before the opening of the world’s first dental college in Baltimore during 1840, dental care skills were considered as one of the specialties of barber-surgeons. Dental care, including tooth repair, sharpening, dental filling, and extraction, were looked at as mechanical challenges. Jewelers mostly made dentures and other dental fixtures.

Self-trained dentists named Horace Hayden and Chapin Harris deserve the credit for opening the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery. Both researchers had initially approached the University of Maryland’s college of medicine with a proposal to include dentistry modules in their medical course. They suggested dentistry deserves to be looked at as a profession, and not as a mechanical challenge. However, initially, some of the university’s top physicians rejected their proposal. But Harris and Hayden were determined. Thus, they managed to reach their desired goal by establishing the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1840.

The U.S. state of Alabama enacted its dental practice act in 1841 and became the first state to do so. Later, a group of dentists from various states came together and formed the American Dental Association (A.D.A.) in 1859. Then, there was no looking back after the formation of Harvard University Dental School in 1867.

Is there a need to merge oral care with overall health care?

Since the formation of dental schools, these institutions have been kept separate from medical schools in the United States. Almost similar is the case when it comes to practice, service delivery, and insurance policies.

Every year, more than a million Americans end up in emergency rooms due to severe dental problems. Unfortunately, emergency rooms hardly have any dentists working for them. Physicians prescribe painkilling medication and recommend visiting a dental clinic. Put simply; there is a gap in care.
To make things complicated, there are several dentists in urban, affluent areas, and lesser in more impoverished rural areas of the U.S.

In most cases, physicians have no idea about their patient’s oral health as well as the anti-biotics prescribed by the dentists. Records are not shared automatically unless the patient shares the details.

As per C.D.C.’s data, more than $6 billion worth of productivity is lost due to dental issues every year. Emergency department visits for temporary oral care (painkillers) cost $2 billion each year. Besides, research has already proved that a person’s overall health can be responsible for increasing overall health, resulting in an increased annual medical cost.

Dentistry and medicine have been separate for multiple decades. But the need to merge them both was highlighted for the first time during the 1920s, by William Gies. The biological chemist visited several dental colleges in Canada and America as a part of his study. His research stressed the need to integrate oral health with overall health. But, back then, dental professionals had a different opinion. Similar recommendations were made during the year 2000, by David Satcher in his report titled Oral Health in America.

During the 1900s, researchers discovered the link between dental decay and its impact on other parts of the body. As a result, some colleges decided to hold shared classes for dentists and doctors. However, no significant steps were taken to merge both completely. During the insurance boon in the 1960-70s, health insurance policies did not cover oral health treatment costs.

The oral health can help in diagnosing cancer, HPV, diabetes, health disease, kidney disease, etc. Thus, the partition between the two hardly makes sense.

When it comes to efforts taken towards integrating medicine and oral health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine is heading in the right direction. Under this initiative, the institution has brought industry experts, healthcare leaders, and academia under one roof. The aim is to transform the way dentistry is financed, taught, practised, and evaluated to integrate the two streams seamlessly. The school is also working on its DMD/MD program aimed at offering a combined training program to physicians on primary care as well as oral health.

Few dental care experts self-train themselves to evaluate signs of drug abuse, mental issues, heart disease, or certain types of cancers that impact the patient’s oral health.
Are you looking for the best dentist in Roswell, Georgia? You should surely consider fixing an appointment at TruCare Dentistry.