It doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. I can’t tell you how many times patients have come into my office in Airdrie, stumped by this revelation.
My financial coordinator asks the patient if they have insurance, the patient nods that they do, and then promptly pulls out a medical insurance card.
I get it – the teeth, your oral health – it’s all part of the body. Why isn’t dentistry considered part of medicine and, therefore, covered under medical insurance?
5 Reasons why dentistry and medicine don’t fall under the same category
Why there’s a separation between these two forms of healthcare is a mystery to many. To add a bit of clarity, here are five reasons for the distinction.
1. Dentistry is a specialty
A general physician oversees the health of the whole body. If there is an issue with a certain part of it that needs some “expertise,” the doctor will refer their patient to a specialist. Some medical specialties include:
- Eye doctors
- Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors
Doctors within a specialty train specifically for that area of medicine.
2. Dentists take care of something general physicians don’t have time for
It seems logical that a human being is a whole person. Therefore, a symptom in one area of the body might link to an issue in another part of the body.
Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough time for one person to learn about all the intricacies of the human body. They’d be in college their entire life. As it is, those in dentistry and medicine already spend years in college training for their particular healthcare field.
There also isn’t enough time in the day for a general physician to take care of all of their patients’ needs, including oral health.
That’s why dentists are important. We focus on treating periodontal disease and dental caries, while the doctor focuses on heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and treating infections.
3. Aesthetics is a large part of dentistry
When most people visit their doctor, they’re going in to treat a condition that is making life difficult for them. They’re sick – they need someone to help them heal.
In dentistry, while we get people coming in for toothaches, dental caries, and periodontal disease, we also get a lot of people who come in for cosmetic purposes.
Aesthetics is a very important part of dentistry. When patients have a beautiful, healthy, bright smile it may help them feel good about themselves.
In my practice for instance, I gladly provide patients with aesthetic procedures, while promoting oral health and treating oral diseases.
4. The education is different for a doctor and dentist
A doctor goes to school for many years. They go to a university, then medical school, then focus on a specialty (if they want), then have to go through an internship. The length of time that they’re in training can be well over a decade.
General dentists go to university, then four years of dental school. The whole process is about eight years. However, if they decide to focus on a particular field of dentistry – periodontics, endodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery – then they will receive even more training.
Again, the important thing to keep in mind is that the type of training received is very different. Of course, there will be some overlapping at times.
5. People don’t always view dentistry as important as general medicine
This is the part that I find difficult to swallow. I’m not just talking about patients, either. People in general – in the healthcare field, patients, insurance companies – tend to think of dentistry as a low priority.
This has resulted in many patients only going to the dentist when they’re in pain, or not going at all. Some people have become seriously ill because they didn’t take care of a tooth or gum infection.
And insurance companies don’t always help with this either. Having to spend money to get dental coverage is something that not everyone can afford to do. It might be more feasible if medical insurance covered dental procedures.