Dentistry originated as a subspecialty of medicine but evolved into a separate healthcare profession in the middle of the 19th century. The subsequent isolation from the profession of medicine has resulted in voids in the training of both physicians and dentists — and has affected healthcare delivery in this country as well.
Harvard School of Dental Medicine
Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) faculty members Donald Giddon, DMD, PhD, and Brian Swann, DDS, MPH have started an oral physician (OP) residency program, sponsored by the HSDM, Harvard Medical School, and the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, MA.
The Issue of Primary Care Shortage
The United States is currently experiencing a primary care shortage. One solution to improving health care is to increase the utilization of existing health care providers, particularly dentists, an opportunity that has been largely ignored. By employing mid-level providers for less complex procedures to deliver more accessible dental care at lower cost, dentists can redistribute tasks to their office workforce. They can then serve as oral physicians who can provide limited preventive primary care, including screening for chronic diseases, while continuing to oversee all dental care, whether provided by dentists or non-dentists. Thus, they could improve the health of the US population as well as increase access to dental care at lower cost, while partially alleviating the primary care shortage by filling a need for the screening aspects of primary care.
What is the Solution to Primary Care Shortage?
HSDM’s oral physician residency is an extra year, sandwiched between the resident’s graduation from general dental practice residency (GDPR) and before other specialty training or general practice. Under the jurisdiction of Dr. Swann, who is also the director of oral health at the Windsor Street Health Center of the Cambridge Health Alliance, the residency provides added rotations in emergency medicine, oral surgery, medicine, anesthesia, and pediatric dentistry.
We Need to Improve Communication Between Oral Health and Medical Providers
“We need to improve communication between oral health and medical providers,” Dr. Swann said. “Right now, it’s dismal. Oral health isn’t being taught in medical school, and dental schools aren’t doing enough to have their students incorporate their medical training, but they’re starting to.”
Dental and Medical Students Should Share the Same Curricula for the First Two Years
At HSDM and Harvard Medical School, for example, dental and medical students share the same curricula for the first two years and then branch out. HSDM’s OP residents learn from medical staff of the Cambridge Health Alliance and share their oral health knowledge with their medical colleagues. Because GDPR programs are generally hospital-affiliated, they allow for better integration of medical and oral health services during training.
Our dental education should be changed. We should obtain an extra two years of education and get a degree as a general physician and then specialize in dentistry. The length of education would not be a lot longer. This would improve the health of the US population as well as increase access to dental care at lower cost, while partially alleviating the primary care shortage by filling a need for the screening aspects of primary care.
In dentistry experience and Continuing Education are everything. Dr. Parvin Carter has over 30 years of experience in Practicing General Dentistry and 25 years in Orthodontics. She has thousands of hours of advanced training. In 2000, Academy of General Dentistry awarded Dr. Carter a Certificate of Mastership (MAGD) in General Dentistry. According to the Journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, only 1% of US dentists achieve this high level of advancement. Dr. Carter is a Certified and Preferred Provider of Invisalign. She has successfully treated over 355 patients with Invisalign.
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