Should dentistry be a specialty of medicine? Two viewpoints

J Dent Educ. 2020 Sep;84(9):1003-1010. doi: 10.1002/jdd.12184. Epub 2020 May 27.


Dentistry and dental education are well-established domains with deep-rooted institutions, educational programs, organizational structures, and advanced specialty fields. Almost 100 years ago, Dr. William Gies, founder of the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, stated that to best serve the oral health needs of the population, dentistry should be considered a specialty of medicine, and dental students should have the same solid foundation in the basic and clinical sciences as medical students. More recently, the report on "Advancing Dental Education in the 21st Century" recommends an increase in the integration of dental and medical education as a means to address 2 of its key challenges: "shrinking demand for dental services" and "shifting practice environment." However, it has also been argued that making dentistry and dental education a subspecialty of medicine and medical education will create logistical, structural, regulatory, and financial dilemmas. Instead of a drastic change to current dental educational, organizational, and institutional models, some argue a contemporary approach to dental education is required to ensure dentists are well prepared to address the healthcare needs of the population and future healthcare delivery systems and practice models. Recognizing the need for change in dental education to keep pace with changes in patient demographics and healthcare systems, the dental profession has the responsibility and opportunity to develop new models and paradigms that improve educational and clinical outcomes in our educational programs and future practice.

Keywords: dental education; interprofessional education; licensure; medical education; professional identity.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Dentistry
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Oral Health*