Dentistry |2 min read

You’re Not Just a Dentist: 2 Reasons to Believe in Your Relevance

Dentists have a chronic problem with believing in our relevance. Here are two reasons to set aside doubt and embrace your role as a healthcare professional. 

Somehow, in the course of history and cultural variability, dentists became the doctors that aren’t really doctors in the eyes of the public, regardless of the hard-earned ‘Dr.’ in front of their name.

As dentists, we must acknowledge our relevance as medical doctors.Do you find yourself answering the question, “What kind of a doctor are you?” with “I’m just a dentist”?

Even if there is no ‘just’ in your mind, and you own it as much as you can, you may sense that people don’t believe you’re a real doctor. That you are somehow insufficient and lacking in that pedigree.

But the truth is, you are sufficient. And if we don’t believe in our relevance, nobody else will. Here are two reasons why dentists are doctors with responsibilities as critical to health as any other medical professional:

1. Reaffirming Our Relevance: Where Health Starts

Let’s not beat around the bush. The mouth is where health starts.

Without the health of their mouths, people cannot communicate or sustain their bodies normally. There is value to our skill in ensuring that more people can carry out these functions healthily.

Walking through a nursing home illustrates this best. They’ll have heart problems, movement problems, hearing problems. If we do our jobs well, we can give them a fighting chance at not also having difficulty eating, talking, and smiling. These are basic human privileges we get to help people have for their whole life.

It’s also important that much of health is based on the ability to get proper nutrients, which teeth are essential for. This is one of the gifts we offer those we care for. 

2. Dentistry is a Preventative Health Measure

Bodies are not made up of closed systems with little to no interaction that operate independently of one another. And though humanity has endeavored to suss out all the intricacies of our physical selves, much is still a mystery.

We help to safeguard against that mystery. We seek out clues of esophageal and intra-oral cancer and we’re sometimes the first to notice changes during face, head, and neck exams. We also see our patients more frequently than medical specialists. We look for thyroid or lymph node changes, lesions on the face and lips, and more signs of something dangerous lurking beneath the surface.

As a dentist, you are a doctor of the stomatognathic system. There is no other medical specialty that knows so much about this aspect of the body. 

We are beginning to learn about the connections between oral-systemic health and diabetes, heart disease, pulmonary and kidney disease, and other inflammatory responses. The more we know, the more we elevate the effectiveness of our care.

In no way, shape, or form are you just a dentist.

What makes you proud to be a dentist? Join the conversation in the comments! 

3 comments on “You’re Not Just a Dentist: 2 Reasons to Believe in Your Relevance”
  1. Avatar
    Richard Hecknes

    Hypothetical scenario.
    Two groups.
    group 1) All members took calculus and physics, then went to Dental school.
    group 2) All members took calculus and physics, and work at NASA.

    Which of these two groups would you trust to build a rocketship to send you to the moon?

    Dentists, are not experts in the medical field, even though their work is incredibly important. This propaganda that dentists are prepared to save lives just as uqually as their MD/DO counterparts, is dangerous.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    Richard-

    I believe you may have slightly missed the intention of the blog, or maybe it has been a while since you yourself visited the dentist. If I may, I would like to shed some light on how dentists do indeed save lives, if not just as much, sometimes more so than their general MD/DO counterparts.

    First you may be unaware of this but it is a fact that most people will regularly see their dentist, while they do not regularly visit their physician. Dentist offices routinely perform blood pressure screenings and are thus more likely to diagnose hypertension because the interaction with the physician isn’t there. A significant percentage of my new patients seen on a monthly basis are referred to my personal physician because 1) they do not have a personal physician, and 2) because I have diagnosed them with hypertension. Even if they have a personal physician they have not been there in “quite some time”.

    GERD- Gastric Acid Reflux Disease can lead to Barrett’s Esophagus, a potentially life threatening change to lining of the esophagus. I don’t know if you are aware but 25% of patients with GERD only show dental symptoms. This is something I routinely refer patients to our local Gastroenterology group for treatment of. Routinely these patients have no other symptoms besides the ones seen intra-orally, the Gastroenterology group understands the important role dentists play in diagnosing this and will treat the patient based upon my findings.

    Oral Cancer- In the US 54,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year. Early detection to prevent loss of life is key in this form of cancer, as in most. Dentists save many lives each year through Oral Cancer Screenings.

    Sleep Apnea- Many of the symptoms of sleep apnea are seen clinically in a head, neck, and intra-oral examination, as well as part of our routine health questionnaires. Sleep apnea can be a life threatening disorder that is both commonly diagnosed, and treated in a dental office with oral appliances.

    I thank you for your comment and hopefully this short response has shed some light on several areas where dentistry plays a significant role in saving someone’s life.

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    Wow! I had no idea that some people don’t think of a dentist as a doctor! My dentist in Potomac, MD has been more of a help for my health than anyone else! Since starting periodontal care, my diabetes and blood sugar have been better than ever, my breath never smells and my confidence is much higher. I think dentists have just as important of a job, and I know research is starting to show more and more correlation between ORAL and OVERALL health.

    Reply
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