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.
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!