Let’s talk about the timeless age old debate. Which came first - the chicken or the egg? No, the real debate: is a dentist a doctor or is a physician the only real doctor? I think maybe the only other health care doctor other than a dentist that takes more of a beating is the chiropractor (as Rodney Dangerfield stated, “I get no respect!”). If you read my blog last week, I ended it telling you to go to YouTube, look up Dentist vs. Doctor, and watch the extra normal video.
My wife works at a hospital as an RN part time. She has commented that when people hear her mention Dr. Joyce, they ask what type of doctor he is. When she responds they say, “Oh, he is just a dentist!” This will make more sense if you watch that video. It appears from the comments that some physicians and dentists take this issue very seriously.
We have all sorts of doctorate degrees: PhD, PharmD, DMD, DDS, MD and so on. Each of them specify or indicate an advanced level of education and knowledge that come with the title. By no means do I think or feel I am a physician. I have a Doctor of Dental Medicine degree. I spent 4 years after undergraduate and then another two years of formal accredited education learning about the diseases and conditions that are associated with the oral cavity, head and neck. When I sit back and think about it, what I find amazing that not only do I examine and diagnose, but also perform surgery if needed (removing and repairing living human tissue), sometimes all in the same hour. Someone has to be well-trained and knowledgeable to do that and cause no long-term ill effects. For that accomplishment, one is worthy of the title Doctor!
How many times have you heard about someone going to their internist or general family practitioner with a suspicious looking mole and having it removed and biopsied. This is almost never done anymore. Sorry Michael J. Fox, but Doc Hollywood delivering babies and setting a fractured arm in the same day just doesn’t happen. (I used this reference because the town they filmed that movie in is just up the road from me.) It is an instant referral to the dermatologist and you know the rest.
Most of the physicians that I know understand and respect what we do. They know they need us and we need them! I think most of this inaccurate perception is from the general public. We are just dentists and you can pick one up at any Saturday morning garage sale. I guess this all started back in history with dentistry springing off from barbers. It has been the scarlet letter we have had to bare for many years. Being the redheaded step child of the medical/dental community has its advantages. When it comes to health care overhaul, dentistry has stayed out of the spot light. We have had to deal with insurances, but dentistry has still been able to operate as more of a small business model with not as much government regulation.
This issue has lead into the reality of compensation. I cannot quote or verify this info, but the last reports that I saw had the general dentist making considerably more money than a general family practitioner. I think a lot has to do again with government infringement on medicine and insurance dictating fees. Private practice medical doctors have a business to run and profit margins. Many MDs that I know have to see sometimes hundreds of patients a day to pay the bills.
Have you heard that dentists do not save lives but real doctors do? I have, on numerous occasions, drained a space infection that left untreated would have killed someone. This happens in third world countries, but not in our society due to the care. Dentists know that typically when a patient shows up to the E.R., it is usually a six hour wait and a Rx for an antibiotic and an analgesic, and they are told to go find a dentist. How many times does a podiatrist or psychiatrist directly save a life? Most physicians besides surgeons, oncologists or emergency room physicians probably directly save lives. All the rest are just like dentists.
I did not want the responsibility of having to be tied to a pager or on call for the hospital rushing out at 2 a.m. for an emergency. I know not all physicians have this lifestyle and dentists do have emergencies. I like the fact that I am out every day at 4 or 5 p.m. and go work out or hang out with my family. Dentistry can be very stressful, but quality of life is important.
I heard the jokes in dental school. Dentists are just dropout medical students that could not hack it! I never applied to medical school and only know one person in my class of 70 or so that was a flunked-out med student. I actually know some that dropped out of dental school and went to med school because they did not have the hand/eye dexterity. Imagine trying to carve a precise 5mm x 5mm x 5mm deep box in the side of an object in a dark wet hole and while looking in a mirror with an object that occasionally moves and makes unpleasant sounds. Sounds easy, right?
I think young people are starting to figure out some of these details. I attend a presentation yearly for the University of Florida, College of Dentistry that talks about admission statistics. The number and quality of applicants has been going through the roof the last ten years and it has become ultra competitive. They have a 4.0 GPA, they volunteer , etc… Many of these students could probably go to any medical school they wanted but chose dentistry as a career choice. This should tell you something.
We could go on more about this subject, but I feel this is mainly a misconception from the public about who we are and what we do (not from physicians). Some physicians may think and act like dentists are second-class citizens in the health care world, but for the most part, they appreciate us. I also know some dentists that think they are physicians and walk around like they are doing brain surgery every day. Dentists and physicians are different animals, but both worthy of the title of Doctor. Most physicians I believe value and respect us and want a dentist on the front line of battle with them. I feel the same.
Have a great week,