26 Aug Does The Qualifications Of Your Dentist Matter?
Table of Contents
If there is one thing that I have learned throughout the last 20 years of my dental career, it is that academic qualifications (undergraduate and postgraduate) do not seem to matter much to the patients I see.
I am writing this mini guide for a few reasons:
- To reflect on the lessons and insights that I have learnt from my patients as a practicing dentist;
- To share with future and aspiring dentists as well as patients what qualities and traits a good dentist should have;
- To shed some light on the different qualifications that some dentists have (some of which may not even be displayable and registrable with Singapore Dental Council), which I hope can help patients like you understand where and what your dentist is trained in.
For lack of a better phrase: Doesn’t seem like much.
Now, I am not saying that having extensive postgraduate dental qualifications or accolades do not matter. They do matter to a certain extent – but in my opinion, it does not seem to sway the vote of the patient to a significant degree.
Of course a patient would want to visit a qualified dentist who has undergone rigorous dental training. But from what i have personally observed over the years treating thousands of patients, the patient usually prioritises the following:
- Does the dentist seem to know what he or she is doing?
- Can I afford the fees that the dentist or clinic is charging?
- Is the dentist or clinic hard selling me treatment that I might not need?
- Does the dentist seem to have experience and confidence working with the condition?
- Can I get the treatment done quickly or on the same day?
- Can I get the treatment done in as painless a way as possible?
- Do I feel comfortable with and trust the dentist?
- Will the dentist respect my appointment time or keep me waiting for hours?
- Will there be any lingering pain, complications or problems after completing dental treatment with the dentist?
- Can i trust the dentist to be honest and to refer me to someone more experienced to solve my dental problems, if he or she cannot handle my case?
Very few of my patients have shown any interest in understanding deeply what each of my qualifications mean, much less ask whether I am qualified to conduct treatment.
Does that mean that dentists do not need further postgraduate dental qualifications after their primary qualifications?
This section is written for existing dentists or dental students who are looking to pursue further education in dentistry.
You should not be in any way discouraged or put off by how little patients seem to openly care about your academic qualifications as a dentist.
There is no shame in pursuing knowledge and the learning should only stop when you’re dead.
Dentistry is a lifelong journey and I hope it makes you as fulfilled as it does me.
Every day I try to find out a new technique, procedure, brand, or treatment that can enhance the treatment outcomes for my patients.
I started my dental practice to change the perception of dentistry and decrease the hurdles to visit the dentist, and since then, I am seeing so many leaps and bounds in technology that can remove or reduce the following hurdles:
- Pain of dental treatments or dental surgery;
- Discomfort from certain procedures, dental tools and equipment;
- Anxiety from the pain or fear of heading to a dentist;
- Seamless same-day fabrication of dental prostheses;
- Seamless virtual consultations with patients that can give a brief differential diagnosis before the in-person consultation.
While my academic qualifications might not have contributed to a sudden flood of new patients , it has certainly helped me to improve the way I confidently communicate with patients about the intended benefits of treatment, rare and common risks and complications that could occur as well as pros and cons of alternative treatment options.
My qualifications have also helped me with being extremely confident in executing the treatment properly as well. Many of such dental treatments can be delicate and complex in nature.
Of course not!
Academic qualifications do not necessarily directly correlate with how skilful a dentist is with his hands.
It is important to note that a great dentist is not just skilled with his hands, but also skilled with communication techniques, building trust and rapport and making his patients feel completely at ease.
In fact, this concept is similar across various industries.
A person with a PhD in Education might not be a good teacher. A marketer with a Masters degree in Marketing might not be a good marketer. An artist with a Masters in Fine Arts might not be good with practicing art.
Academic qualifications are simply an indicator that your dentist has received theoretical and practical training to perform dental treatment for a patient up to a certain degree of difficulty, competency and safety. There are many qualifications that a dentist can pursue, some of which may not even be recognized by the Singapore Dental Council as a displayable and registrable qualification. And different academic qualifications can have different levels of theoretical and practical training.
I tell my patients that anyone can learn how to fix teeth – eventually – after damaging many false teeth during training .
Although postgraduate academic qualifications are not the be all end all, they can help a dentist achieve a few things:
- Instil a higher level of implied trust for the dentist from a patient perspective;
- Forge a strong relationship and referral network with other dentists in the community;
- Skills, theory and practical techniques learnt can be used to enhance the patient experience.
- To gain more confidence in handling complex dental issues.
For a patient, the qualifications of a dentist can help you:
- Understand what his key focus treatment(s) or speciality field is/are;
- How long he or she has practiced based on his qualifications;
A good dentist is one who can juggle truly listening and caring about his or her patients with good technical skill, professional knowledge and a caring and honest character. .
There are many other factors for what makes one a good dentist, namely:
- Being able to empathise with the patient;
- Being able to connect with the patient and sense how they feel;
- Being a good communicator to translate complex information to simple information;
- Having good judgment;
- Developing critical thinking skills;
- Being able to work with others,
Among other technical factors.
If you are looking for a dentist, it is important to have a brief understanding of what skills your dentist requires. This shifts according to the treatment needs and condition of your teeth.
- Knowledgeable on dental conditions and symptoms;
- Detailed-oriented and meticulous;
- Able to problem-solve for different dental conditions;
- Provision of correct medication recommendations;
- Able to correctly interpret laboratory results.
- Enthusiasm for his or her work;
- Passion for working with patients like you;
- Compassionate and empathetic for all patients;
- Great chair side manner;
- Consistently advocates for you as a patient;
- Calm even when working in highly tensed situations;
- Able to work under high-pressure;
There is no immediate difference between a heartland dentist and a centrally located dentist, beyond the following:
- Difference in location
- Possibly equipment and technology used
- Possibly types of materials and brands used for treatment
Most dentists would have studied and obtained a degree in dentistry. A heartland dentist can be as good, if not better, than a centrally located dentist.
The key differentiators, that are not exclusive to location, would lie in the following:
- Experience of the dentist
- The training of the dentist
- The soft skills of the dentist
- The techniques used by the dentist to calm and sedate the patient
In fact, patients usually have the misconception that they are being charged a premium at centrally located dental clinics because of the rental and location, rather than because of the dentist’s technical expertise or the equipment used in the clinic.
Should you be considering between a heartland dentist and a centrally located one, always go for one that you are comfortable with.
Consider your comfort levels with:
- The dentist
- The treatments that the dentist recommends
- The budget that you have for the treatment
Obtaining dental treatments and maintaining your teeth is a long-term process. Visiting a dentist that you are comfortable with can make your dental treatments and maintenance more sustainable.
While qualifications might showcase a certainty that your dentist or doctor has the relevant knowledge, theoretical and practical experience in class to conduct procedures, it should not be the key decision maker.
Ultimately, the dentist or doctor’s skill, experience and your comfort levels with them is the most important for a successful treatment outcome.
Should you wish to compare qualifications, it is important to note that different qualifications bear different weights. Once again, this does not guarantee that the dentist or doctor is good but at least fulfils certain prerequisites that might be necessary for treatment.
A good example would be conducting Invisalign treatments.
A dentist or orthodontist has to undergo a certification and training process before conducting Invisalign treatments. This helps them with the following:
- Understand whether Invisalign works to have the confidence to treat their patients;
- Understand the biomechanics of how Invisalign impacts different dental cases as no two teeth are the same;
- Understand how to plan for Invisalign cases so that the patient has a clear idea of what happens or what needs to be done in each step;
- Understand how to deliver more precise results for their patients;
- Understand what should be done pre-Invisalign, during Invisalign, and post-Invisalign for the best treatment results;
If you are curious to find out more about qualifications, here are a few reputable certifications that might be of interest to you if are interested in dental implants:
- Graduate Diploma in Dental Implantology of NUS, GDDI (NUS)
- Master of Science in Implant Dentistry of University of London, MSc(Implant Dentistry) (London)
- Master of Science in Implant Dentistry of University of Warwick, MSc(Implant Dentistry) (Warwick), that was awarded before 2012.
Specialities Related To Dental Implants
- Master of Dental Surgery/Master of Science, MDS or MSc
- Fellow of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, FAMS
Dental specialists are general dentists who have had additional training.
A dental specialist would have undergone another two to three years of full-time advanced training in a specific discipline of dentistry.
To view the full list of dental specialists titles as well as what each titles mean, you can refer to the table below:
|Endodontist||Specialises in treating problems in relation to the soft pulp of the tooth to save the tooth from being lost to decay.|
|Orthodontist||Specialises in aligning the jaw and teeth using wires, braces and aligners.|
|Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon||Specialises in identifying, diagnosing and treating diseases, trauma and defects in the head, neck, face, jaws and hard and soft tissue of the mouth.|
|Paediatric Dentist||Specialises in providing dental care services for children and adolescents.|
|Periodontist||Specialises in gum and treatment of gum disease.|
|Prosthodontist||Specialises in restoring missing teeth and jaw structures.|
|Dental Public Health Specialist||Specialises in using research, education and developing programs to maintain and control dental diseases on a community level.|
|Oral Pathologist||Specialises in using lab examinations to research and provide insights on the causes and effects of diseases on the jaw and mouth.|
|Oral Maxillofacial Radiologist||Specialises in diagnosing and managing oral diseases with the use of X-rays, CT scans and MRI imaging.|
|Dental Anaesthesiologist||Specialises in the management of pain and anxiety during a surgical or diagnostic procedure.|
|Oral Medicine Specialist||Specialises in the provision of dental care for patients with complex or chronic medical issues.|
|Orofacial Pain Specialist||Specialises in the assessment, diagnosis and management of oral and facial pain conditions.|
Depending on the complexity and needs of your case, you might require a dental specialist instead of a general dentist.
To help you make a decision, I have summarised the key differences between a dental specialist and a general dentist in the table below:
|Dental Specialist||General Dentist|
|Additional 2 – 6 years of Postgraduate training in a particular specialty.||4 – 5 years of dental training that covers a comprehensive list of dental services.|
|Usually has advanced knowledge and skills to build and treat complex dental cases.||Is able to treat both simple and complex cases, but might refer to a specialist if the case requires advanced support.|
|Usually focuses on their specialty.||Usually does and provides a wide range of dental treatments ranging from surgical cases like dental implants, root canal surgery, to extractions and fillings. The general dentist might also have a cosmetic dentistry interest for procedures like dental veneers, teeth whitening and smile makeovers.|
Not all dental qualifications are the same and yet, there are many qualifications that might represent similar training or that are simply titles for similar qualifications.
The following seeks to break down the qualifications that you might chance upon when visiting a dentist in Singapore.
Once dentists have completed a degree in dentistry, they are awarded the following abbreviations after their name. These are just some of the common abbreviations that you might notice on the name card, or scrubs of a dentist:
- Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS)
- Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
- Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM)
- Doctor of Dentistry (DDent)
- Bachelor of Dentistry (BDent)
- Bachelor of Dental Science (BDSc)
- Bachelor of Science in Dental (BScD)
- Bachelor Degree of Dentistry (BDS)
- Diploma in Dentistry (SMF)
A general dentist is able to provide a comprehensive range of both simple and complex dental services. Some dental services that you might be familiar with are root canal surgery, wisdom tooth extraction and fillings for teeth with caries.
If you chance upon the following abbreviations, these are specialists who have completed an additional 2 – 6 years of postgraduate training.
- Master of Science (MS or MSc)
- Master of Science in Dentistry (MSD)
- Master of Medical Science (MMSc)
- Master of Dentistry (MDent)
- Master of Dental Surgery (MDS)
- Master of Dental Science (MDentSci)
- Doctor of Clinical Dentistry (DClinDent)
- Fellow College of Physicians and Surgeons (FCPS)
- Fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada (FCPS(C))
- Doctor of Dental Science (DDSc)
- Doctor of Science in Dentistry (DScD)
- Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc)
- Doctor of Dentistry (DDent)
- Master of Stomatology (MS)
- Master of Clinical Stomatology (MCS)
- Master of Clinical Stomatological Medicine (MSM)
- Doctor of Philosophy in Dentistry (PhD)
- Fellowship in Sports Dentistry/Fellow Sports Dentistry (FSD)
There are many other abbreviations and certifications that I have not covered that you might see on the scrubs of a dentist.
Do not panic!
It is common for different universities to issue different abbreviations for the same title.
When you chance upon a copy of my CV, you might see something like this:
- Diplomate, Dental Implantology Program , Faculty of Dentistry NUS, G.D.D.I ( Singapore)
- Diplomate, Asia Pacific Academy of Implant Dentistry, Dip. A.P.A.I.D (Taiwan)
- Fellow, International Congress of Oral Implantologists, F.I.C.O.I (New Jersey, USA)
- Fellow, International College of Dentists, F.I.C.D (Michigan, USA)
- Fellow, Pierre Fauchard Academy, F.P.F.A (Utah, USA)
- Fellow, Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgery. F.R.A.C.D.S (Sydney, Australia)
- Fellow, International College of Continuing Dental Education, F.I.C.C.D.E ( Philippines)
- Fellow, International Academy for Dental-Facial Esthetics, F.I.A.D.F.E ( New York, USA)
While the number of titles might seem intimidating, all this means is that I am a qualified dental surgeon who has completed multiple prestigious fellowships in different countries. These qualifications enable me to enhance my knowledge and technical skills to serve my patients better in both functional and cosmetic dentistry.
It is not uncommon for clinical directors and their associates to charge a premium if they have the following:
- Qualifications e.g. Specialist
- Experience and expertise with working with treatments or particular conditions
- Have a reputation for doing certain procedures
- Is a key leader in working with certain treatments, procedures or conditions
The cost of treatment for some procedures might seem out of reach because of this. For example, doing dental implant treatment with an experienced dental surgeon can cost in the range of $5,000 – $6,000 while a specialist can cost in the range of $6,200 – $15,000 per tooth. Invisalign treatment with an experienced provider can cost from $8,000 – $15,000.
The amount of money required for certain treatments might seem scary and put you off treatment. If a patient is price conscious, hearing the costs can mean either heading to a cheaper and more affordable sounding provider or forgoing treatment entirely.
There are providers who might also lure patients in with lower than average costs, only for the patient to realise that the initial costs do not include required surgeries or treatments.
I know of patients who hold off treatment for years and return only to realise that their dental hygiene has deteriorated. This becomes extremely costly as they require additional work done before their actual treatment.
Hear me out, do not let the initial cost you hear deter you from seeking treatment! I say this for a few reasons:
- Most clinics are able to discuss, adjust and work with your budget;
- It is impossible to determine the actual cost of treatment over the phone or WhatsApp. Your treatment procedure might actually be lower than the ballpark figure provided;
- Patients who ask for certain treatments might not actually need them;
- Treatment costs are usually not paid for at one-go. This means that you will be paying for your treatment in stages, which adds up to the ballpark figure.
Many clinics that I know of offer insurance that covers dental surgery procedures. Some clinics might even offer interest-free financing plans that are tweaked to your budget. Some surgeries or procedures that are typically covered by Medisave or insurance are:
At my clinic, we have a ballpark figure that is adjusted to your financial needs and the complexity of your case.
Based on my experience with my patients, they tend to value the following aspects more than the number of qualifications a dentist has:
- How confident the dentist is when explaining the rationale behind the treatment;
- The tone and demeanour at which the treatment conversation is done;
- Whether the dentist has offered alternative treatment methods that fit their budget or costs lower than what was initially recommended;
- The overall perception of the dentist during the consultation;
- Whether the dentist put them at ease during the consultation;
- The case studies of the dentist and whether it meets their expectations;
- The experience of the dentist for the treatment.
Of course, there are also patients who might prioritise the qualifications of a dentist. These are few and far between.
Patients who are willing to fork out a premium for a treatment usually come from the following channels:
- Referrals from patients who have completed similar or like-treatments;
- Return patients who have done previous treatments with us;
- Patients who have seen patient testimonials from Google Reviews.
Meet with the dentist for a consultation first before making a choice. A good dentist and dental clinic will work with you to meet your needs and budget.
The adage you get what you pay for can ring true in some instances.
It must be noted that dentists and specialists with experience and the technical skill and knowledge tend to command higher rates as a sign of a few things:
- Their confidence in achieving the outcomes that you require;
- Their ability to accurately and ethically assess what you need instead of selling you treatments that you might not be suitable for;
- Their ability to complete procedures professionally and efficiently;
You might be interested to find out why the costs of dental implants varies: Costs of Dental Implants
Dental qualifications can be a good determinant of what your dentist has to offer, but it is not the ultimate guide to choosing the most suitable dentist for your needs and preferred outcomes.
The most important factor is to ensure that you, as a patient, are comfortable with him or her to work with you on your oral and dental health.