On one level, dentists are not different from "normal" specialists - they just specialize in treating teeth. On another level, they're different:

  1. Many universities have separate faculties of dentistry and of medicine
  2. Dentists get their own special degrees, e.g. MDS, MDent

Question: why are dentists so special? As far as I'm aware, the other specialists (anesthesiologist, neurologist, urologist ...) all start out the same. They take the same classes at university, graduate as GPs, do some years of housemanship, and eventually specialize. Why doesn't the same apply to dentists? Is there something special about teeth that makes it impractical or unnecessary to start as a GP before specializing in dentistry?

  • 2
    They cover a minute fraction of the medical syllabus Commented Dec 28, 2017 at 20:31
  • @GrahamChiu I respectfully disagree. We cover huge portions of médecine, despite the fact that we won't use that knowledge on an everyday basis.
    – enap_mwf
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 2:35
  • 1
    @enap_mwf I speak from experience talking to dentists seeking my advice. Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 3:59
  • @GrahamChiu and MDs contact me for advice for dental and gums lesions.
    – enap_mwf
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 4:43
  • ...I knew a MD/DDS in the USA (I don't remember which he did first, but he was OMFS), and he said there is a decent amount of overlap in anatomy/physiology/pathophysiology. From what I remember of our discussion, DDS school (as expected) goes into far more detail with head & neck, and MD school goes into more detail on systemic pathophysiology, chronic disease, and pharmacology/mgmt of diseases.
    – DoctorWhom
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 7:21

1 Answer 1


Long story short : The current setup in North America and elsewhere is due to historical reasons, and continues to this day due to difference in the training of Dentists and all other MDs.

Dentistry used to be considered as a completely separate, non-medical profession. This is still apparent in the way dental and medical insurance are considered separately.

Over the years, the implication of oral health on general health, but especially of the general health on teeth and surrounding tissues have become more apparent.

The reason the programs won't merge completely for the foreseeable future with médecin is that training for the clinical aspect of Dentistry starts in second year of the degree, while MDs (including surgeons) start clinical training in their chosen field after completing their 4th year and choosing their specialty.

Here is a non-scientific article that adresses your question partially (not sure your question is strictly medical) https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/03/why-dentistry-is-separated-from-medicine/518979/

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    Quick correction, in the USA, MD/DO school 3rd and 4th year are almost entirely clinical rotations through the major medical specialties.
    – DoctorWhom
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 7:23
  • "and elsewhere" is based on what? Is this the case in Canada, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Namibia, UK, Kazakhstan? Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 14:50
  • Canada and USA for sure. But in Dentistry we don't do rotations in other medical fields/specialties like the MDs.
    – enap_mwf
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 14:52
  • @DoctorWhom they do rotations through the major specialties, but only start their CHOSEN specialty afterwards, while DMD/DDS do Dentistry within their 3rd and 4th year.
    – enap_mwf
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 14:54

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