Medicine & Dentistry

Friendly banter aside, let's discuss structures and cultures within each profession. It's hard for me to admit this outright, but medicine appears to have far superior systems in place to offer patients a better, more evidence based service. This is something that may have arisen from necessity. After all, a bad day in the office for a dentist is the loss of a tooth.

Supervision and oversight.

In dental private practices, most dentists diagnose and treatment plan alone.  By contrast, Hospital doctors work in teams. Even GPs utilise specialists and other peers in their treatment plans far more often than dentists do. In dentistry, this over-reliance on individual judgement can on occasion lead to egregious errors. There's no one to tap a dentist on the shoulder and say, hey mate, that doesn't look right.

After the fact.

Most errors by dentists is only caught after that fact. The damage has already been done. This is evident in the rising litigation statistics observed worldwide. In contrast, doctors have systems in place where many experts work together and errors can be caught before iatrogenesis takes place.

Mentors and maturity

Doctors tend to be in their mid 30s by the time they begin work autonomously. Through rigorous training programs and having steady access to mentors, expertise is fostered better. I was 22 when I graduated with my BDS, and by 25 i was working alone in the clinic some days.

M&M and MDTs.

M&Ms (morbidity and mortality) and MDTs (Multi-disciplinary team meetings) are commonplace in hospitals and some GP practices. These meetings are an age old institution in medicine and allow a blameless environment for learning from adverse outcomes. This is far from the norm in dentistry. In dentistry without these norms, it depends on how self reflective and motivated the clinician is to learn from their own mistakes.


Dentistry isn't medicine. The needs and demands of the patients we're trying to treat is completely different. The costs of providing MDTs and other expert heavy protocols would not be menial. Dentistry still needs to take a step in the right direction by reducing responsibility and reliance on individual clinicians for the betterment of the service we provide.

Don't trust someone. Trust the sum of everyone.

Further reading