Medicine and Dentistry are the chiefs of all medical courses and arguably the most lucrative of them all.
They are also very closely related in many ways that some people still find it difficult to point out any differences between the two courses.
But in this post, we will be comparing Dentistry vs Medicine so as to outline the significant differences between these two courses.
Table of Contents
- Dentist vs Medical Doctor: Are they the same?
- Dentistry vs Medicine: Differences Between Them
- Dentistry vs Medicine Education
- Medicine Degree vs Dentistry Degree
- Dentistry vs Medicine: Career after Undergraduate School
- Dentistry vs Medicine Salary
- Is Dentistry Easier than Medicine?
- Dentistry or Medicine Which One Is better?
- Pros and cons of Dentistry vs Medicine
Dentist vs Medical Doctor: Are they the same?
A dentist and a medical doctor both have different jobs, but they work in synergy to achieve the same purpose; to deliver the best possible care so as to prolong the life of a patient.
While dentists are concerned with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases affecting the oral cavity, the maxillo-facial area, and surrounding structures, a medical doctor is concerned with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases affecting every other part of the body.
Right from the inception of both professions, Dentistry and Medicine have always been different in both training and practice.
As you must have noticed in many countries, you even need separate insurance to get free dental care.
Going on, we will explore the history of this divide between dentistry and medicine.
Is Dentist MD?
A dentist is a dentist and a doctor, a doctor. There was never a time when dental care and medical care were integrated under one body.
Although the training and overall objective of both professions may be similar in many ways, there is so much disparity in their foundation.
Why is dentistry not a medical specialty?
People often ask; why is dentistry separate from medicine? And the answer can be found down the memory lane in the grassroots of the dental profession.
Dentistry and Medicine have always stayed separate right from the days of the barber-surgeons.
Barber-surgeons were highly skilled professionals originating from western Europe in the middle ages. They offered a variety of special-skilled services like bloodletting, application of leeches, amputation, haircutting, and so on.
Physicians then believed that procedures like bloodletting and bone-cutting could prolong the lives of patients although these procedures were associated with a very high mortality rate due to poor bleeding control techniques and surgical infections.
During this time, dental skills were among the very many special-skilled services provided by some of these barbers like leeching and cupping and tooth extractions.
And to learn these skills, an apprentice would have to train under a barber who is proficient in any of the desired skills the apprentice would like to learn, such that there were barbers who specialized in bone cutting, some who specialized in bloodletting, some others in tooth extraction/denture design, and so on.
But dentistry went on to become a recognized profession in the year 1840 in Baltimore where the first dental college was opened.
But before then, a couple of self-trained dentists (Harris and Horace Hayden) approached the physicians at the college of medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore with the idea to include dental instruction in the medical course there but this idea was turned down by the physicians there who believed that the subject of dentistry would be of little consequence.
This rejection would go on to be remembered as the ‘historic rebuff’ and is still being talked about, though not much.
However, it is regarded as a symbolic event that will continue to define the relationship between medical and dental education and healthcare systems.
And since then, many societies in the western world have separate systems for dentistry and medicine.
However, there have been several reforms in how this is structured, and today dentistry is no longer regarded as a mere tooth technology but has gone a long way to be integrated into the same system. And a lot of things have been changing since then.
Dentistry vs Medicine: Differences Between Them
The differences between dentistry and medicine are in the education training, nature of degree awarded, and career pathway/jobs after medical school.
Dentistry vs Medicine Education
To become a medical consultant anywhere in the world takes nothing less than 10 years of specialized training.
- 4 to 6 years of medical undergraduate training
- 1 to 2 years of internships and service (Or foundational training in the UK)
- 4 to 8 years of special training or residency.
But to become a fully qualified and licensed dentist, you need to complete;
- 4 to 6 years of dentistry undergraduate training
- 1 to 2 years internship and service (foundational training in the UK)
- 5 years of specialized training in any of the dentistry specialties
In some institutions, medical and dental students are under the same faculty in a teaching hospital and dentistry students in addition to writing all the medical professional exams, also write their own special exams called the Bachelor in Dentistry Exams (B.DS).
Medicine Degree vs Dentistry Degree
While doctors are awarded a Medical Degree (M.D) or Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS), Dentists are awarded a Bachelor in Dentistry (B.DS) after completing their undergraduate training in a medical or dental college.
Dentistry vs Medicine: Career after Undergraduate School
After undergraduate training, doctors and dentists have very similar career paths. Doctors go on to complete specialized training in any of the recognized medical or surgical specialties. Also, dentists take up specialized training in one of the specialties in dentistry.
The specialties in dentistry include:
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery: This is a dental specialty focusing on reconstructive surgery of the face, facial trauma surgery, the oral cavity, head and neck, jaws, and mouth, as well as facial cosmetic surgery.
- Prosthodontics: It deals with the replacement of missing teeth and the associated soft and hard tissues by prostheses which could be fixed or removable or may be supported and retained by implants.
- Pediatrics dentistry: This dental specialty is symmetrical with the pediatrics specialty in medicine. They are concerned with the dental care of children and adolescents.
- Endodontics: It deals with the treatment of diseases on the inside of the tooth, including the pulp chamber, canal, and surrounding structures.
- Orthodontics Dentofacial Orthopedics: They are dental specialists that are concerned with the prevention and correction of teeth malocclusion and other related dentofacial deformities.
- Periodontics: These dental specialists are concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal diseases. The periodontal area of the oral cavity includes those tissues that support the teeth.
- Public Health Dentistry: It is a dental specialty that is concerned with dental public health.
- Oral and Maxillofacial radiology: This involves the use of imaging techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the teeth.
- Oral and maxillofacial pathology: This specialty deals with the study of the causes, processes, and effects of oral diseases, together with resultant alterations of oral structure and function.
- Cosmetic dentistry: They help beautify the face through procedures involving the maxillofacial region like jaw adjustment, dental color change, polishing, reshaping, etc.
- Geriatric dentistry: This is a specialty in dentistry that deals with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of dental diseases affecting the old.
- Forensic odontology: These specialists help the judicial system in the proper handling, examination, and evaluation of dental evidence.
Dentistry vs Medicine Salary
Now we have come to the most interesting part for people seeking career opportunities in medicine or dentistry. Both medical doctors and dentists are among the top paid medical professional in the world.
In this post, we are going to compare the average salary of dentists and doctors in four major countries; The US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Nigeria.
|Countries||Dentist salary/year||Doctor salary/year|
|United States||$152,224 – $201,690||$177,804 – $229,704|
|Canada||CA$111,093 – CA$201,825||Ca$34,125 – CA$220,625|
|United Kingdom||E43,000 – 92,013||E50,373 – €91,584|
|Australia||AUD114,524 – AUD185,930||AUD135,359 – AUD243,750|
|Nigeria||N5,000,000 – N15,000,000||N3,500,000 – N16,000,000|
As you can see dentists and doctors earn almost around the same average salary years in many countries of the world.
But also bear in mind that these are just average salaries and they can go a lot higher for specialists in the private sector.
Is Dentistry Easier than Medicine?
There have been many debates from students over the more difficult undergraduate program.
We had to conduct a poll on our Twitter page to see what most people who follow our page think and the result is here:
But to be more transparent, you cannot conclusively say that one is more difficult than the other.
A more reliable study to determine this can only be possible if you subject the participants in the study to study both medicine and surgery and dentistry under the same condition, at the same age, and within the same time frame which is practically impossible.
So there is basically no objective way to determine the more difficult profession between the two.
Dentistry or Medicine Which One Is better?
No one is better than the other. It is practically impossible to determine which is better.
Dentistry and medicine are very lucrative courses, they have nearly similar career pathways and both have very good prospects.
It does not really matter which of them you study, what matters most is how well you study them and of course, how much impact you are able to make in your practice.
Pros and cons of Dentistry vs Medicine
In comparing dentistry vs medicine, you will find that there are many reasons why some persons may decide to choose one over the other.
The major reason why some premeds choose medicine over dentistry is because of the limited nature of the dental practice.
After your whole years of dental training, you are still restricted to just the diagnoses, prevention, and treatment of diseases affecting the oral cavity and supporting structures.
Unlike in medicine where you have a list of multiple specialties diagnosing and treating diseases in all the other parts of the human body.
On the other hand, some people will choose the straightforward nature of dental practice over the complicated nature of the medical practice which often leads to confusion among medical graduates when looking for the most suitable field to specialize in.
The divide between dentistry and medicine is an old one. But even in this division, there is beauty in the synergy between these two different professionals who work in tandem for the optimal health of people in the society.
A society where both professions are fully integrated into one could be a dream come true for many, but leaving the formation process of these professionals as they are while focusing on policies that will make healthcare holistic irrespective of specialty or profession would save everyone a lot of stress.