Dentistry – science or art?

There are those that claim dentistry is purely a science. Based on scientific principles and taught within narrow confines, the volumes of scientific literature available are certainly immense. Everything has been studied, reviewed and meta-analysed; enough documentation to consume a mini rainforest!

But what about the actual mechanical instrumentation and physical crafting itself that consumes most of our time?

My belief… is that the human dentition and great dentistry is the successful union of both science and art, producing something not only incredibly efficient in its function but also aesthetically pleasing. Perhaps science and art are not such distant cousins after all

Less science and more an advanced form of carpentry, it seems a separate entity from the core science underlying it. For the sake of our philosophical discussion let us call this careful labour and craft by another name – art. For art and craft are often used in conjunction.

I always wondered where the balance lies. As an artist, I can see the importance of lines, shapes and colour in the dentistry that we do. The end product needs to be aesthetically pleasing – like a work of art. Anything less almost seems foreign and unwelcome. With the rise of cosmetic dentistry the importance of shape, form and colour become even more important and the development in materials are giving us a greater range of shades, lustres and translucencies to add to our armentarium. Further titling the balance towards an artform.

But what if we step back, consider and accept (as many do) the human body as a wonderful work of art, with the dentition being no different in its beauty? Then surely we are just conforming to that belief in our dental treatment: replacing damaged art (tooth ravaged by caries) with new art (in the form of restorations).

  Saif Nasser, BDS, MJDF RCS(Eng) is a dentist and academic tutor. His interest lies in cosmetics and restorative dentistry and he currently in practises in Edgware Road, London.

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