Carry on doctor!

An overwhelming 89% of readers who voted in our ‘call me doctor’ poll think it is appropriate for dentists to continue using the courtesy title.

Passions ran high as we tested the opinion of the profession on the recommendation to Council by the General Dental Council’s Standards committee that dentists should no longer call themselves ‘Doctor’.

The ‘call me doctor’ controversy is nothing new and, as far back as 1995, the GDC was under pressure from the profession to allow dentists to use the ‘Doctor’ title.

In November of that year, the GDC announced it did not regard the use of the courtesy title ‘Doctor’ as a matter of serious professional misconduct and deleted the relevant wording from its guidance.

This was followed by a letter sent out to all dentists saying that, although this allowed dentists to use the title, they had to take care to ensure they did not use it in such a way as to mislead patients or the public into thinking they were anything other than dentists.

Three years later, in 1998, the GDC issued the following guidance in Maintaining Standards: 1.4:

‘A dentist who uses the courtesy title “doctor” has a duty to ensure that it is not used in a way that misleads the public.’

But a lack of clarity about its status remained.

Many dentists insist that more widespread use of the term does not confuse patients and only brings the UK into line with the rest of Europe, where it is commonplace.

In February, the GDC took a decision to postpone a vote on whether dentists should be able to continue using the ‘Doctor’ courtesy title so that an ‘impact assessment can be carried out’ to allow proper consideration of the issue.

As a pre-cursor to that decision, the British Dental Association (BDA) warned the GDC that a change to the rules on this issue would ‘create confusion, be perceived as a downgrading of dentistry and could disadvantage UK-trained dentists’.

In a letter to the GDC, the BDA also warned that implementing a change would mean resources being wasted.

“The patients are more likely to take our advice if we are called doctor” – a dentist in Birmingham

Dr Susie Sanderson, chair of the BDA’s executive board, said at the time: ‘The GDC’s decision to defer its vote on this issue affords time for common sense to prevail. We believe a change would cause needless confusion for patients and unnecessary expense for dentists. We are urging the GDC to reject this proposal when the vote is taken.’

If the vote were to go ahead and a decision made to ban dentists from using the title, it could mean in principle that only dentists who are medically qualified – or who have a bona-fide Doctorate (PhD) – would be entitled to use this title.

“Dentists are, in my opinion, medically qualified – we are physicians and surgeons focusing on a particular area of the body” – a dentist in Northern Ireland

Dentistry magazine and were keen to give readers an exciting opportunity to voice their opinion on the controversy – and, for one lucky reader, a chance to attend the World Aesthetic Congress (WAC) in a free prize draw.

You voted online by clicking the opinion poll on the homepage of, you emailed [email protected], you sent in your voting slips, and you voted on our Facebook page.

“I feel strongly that a dentist should only use the title ‘Doctor’ if he/she is medically qualified or has gained a PhD” – a dentist in Cambridge

The lucky reader pulled out of the hat was Dr Lynda Raybould, who wins a free ticket to the WAC.

The leading aesthetic dentistry event – taking place on 17-18 June – offers an unrivalled speaker line-up, live demos, first-class business and clinical sessions, live demonstrations and the biggest ever trade exhibition.

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