Is a Dentist a Doctor?

When you go to a typical dental practice you will meet not only the dentist but also various other people. We shall also explain the many varieties of dentists, some of whom you may come across in hospitals, in dental schools and in non-NHS speciality practices.


Surgeons in Britain drop the title doctor. All dentists are dental surgeons. This explains why medical surgeons and dentists are called Mr, Miss, Mrs or Ms, rather than Dr, as in the USA and the rest of the European Union. As of November 1995, however, dentists can use the title doctor if they wish. The two basic qualifications you will come across most often on the brass plate, letterheads or business cards of general practice dentists are:


– Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS), followed by the University where the dentist trained, e.g. (London), (Manchester) or perhaps (Sydney).

– Licentiate in Dental Surgery, Royal College of Surgeons (LDS RCS).


Most dentists go on refresher courses and attend seminars to learn about the latest techniques. Some of theese are part of their NHS conditions of service, especially for the older dentists; others are done in their own time and at their own expense. Many specialists visit the USA regularly for this purpose.


Since the single market, the EU has insisted that all registered practitioners are allowed to cross borders to practise. However, it appears that in some countries scant regard is paid to proper qualifications – except in theory. A specialist orthodontist practising in an EU capital city provides an example. He boasts of his degree – an unusual occurrence for an orthodontist in his city. However, it is a law degree; he has no dental qualifica­tions at all, but can earn more money as an orthodontist than as a lawyer. The same regulations are also diluting UK specialities, and there are fears at the highest levels that standards could fall. Until this matter has been resolved. We can only urge you to be cautious should you be faced with a dentist with an EU-registered qualification other than UK or Irish. While most will be professionally competent, some will not.


You may see other basic dental degrees (BDSc and BChD) and many non-specific dental post-graduate degrees. These include Masters (MDS); Doctorate (PhD) and Fellowship (EDS RCS). In addition to these there a qualifications in general dental practice and community dentistry, but these are more about professional careers than of concern to patients.


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