Dentistry versus Medicine: 5 Reasons why they are different

Dentistry versus Medicine: 5 Reasons why they are different

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
  • Neurologists
  • Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors
  • Chiropractors
  • Gastroenterologists
  • Gynecologists
  • Proctologists
  • Podiatrists
  • Dentists

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.

Why you need to see your dentist and doctor for regular visits

Though they are separate, it’s important to take both your physical and oral health very seriously. This means taking the time to visit your doctor and your dentist regularly.

Like I said before, we are one body. Something that affects one part of our body may very well impact another part.

More studies prove this to be the case. Most recently, researchers have pointed to definite links between periodontal disease and heart disease. And I’m sure that, in the future, researchers will find even more correlations between oral health and other diseases of the body.

That’s why, in an attempt to promote good overall health, it is important to see your doctor and dentist regularly.

Come visit You First Dental in Airdrie for all your dental needs

To take optimal care of your oral health requires that you see a dentist at least annually for an examination and twice a year for cleanings.

Dentistry, though different from medicine, plays an important role in your overall health. With regular cleanings and exams, we’ll help prevent periodontal disease and dental caries. And it’s possible that we could prevent serious health conditions, too.

I hope that you will look at dentistry as an investment in your general health – because that’s exactly what it is. Plus, with a beautiful, healthy smile, you’ll look and feel great!

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen a dentist, please call my office in Airdrie to schedule an appointment. We’ll provide you with individualized care in a caring environment.

Tooth Infection & Heart disease: Is there a link?

Tooth Infection & Heart disease: Is there a link?


For the past few years, researchers have explained the link between gum disease and heart disease. But what about a tooth infection and heart disease – is there a link there as well?

New studies show that there is a definite connection between oral infections and heart disease.

What does this mean for you?

The tooth infection – heart disease correlation: What the studies show

While most of the common risk factors for heart problems are well known (obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol), most people aren’t aware of what role their dental health can play.

New research shows that there is a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, as well as a correlation between heart disease and a tooth infection. The Journal of Dental Research released information which shows that people who have a tooth infection are almost three times as likely to be at risk for heart disease. Deaths from cardiovascular disease contribute to 30% of deaths annually. It is a leader among the causes of death among both men and women in the U.S.

In an article on, writer Honor Whiteman points to a recent study done by the University of Helsinki in Finland. The study found that there is a link between cardiovascular problems and tooth infections, called apical periodontitis. In fact, patients with apical periodontitis are at greater risk for ACS (acute coronary syndrome). ACS encompasses many conditions in which blood cannot flow to the coronary arteries.

In addition to heart disease, oral issues can contribute to diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and even pregnancy complications. These are just a few of the reasons why oral healthcare and regular dental visits are important.

Two types of oral infections we want patients to be aware of

There are two types of oral infections that could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease: a tooth infection and a gum infection.

1. An infection from dental decay

Apical periodontitis is an abscess on the very tip of the root of a tooth. The cause of the infection is decay and bacteria. The bacteria in the mouth attack sugars in the foods we eat. In the process, an acid develops, which disintegrates the surfaces of the tooth. It decalcifies the enamel, then progressively bores all the way through the enamel and dentin (the second layer of the tooth), and into the pulp.

The nerve of the tooth is in the pulp chambers, which run down the middle of the root of the tooth. When decay and bacteria get into the nerve, it causes an infection and inflammation. The result is a painful abscess.

It is important to note that most people don’t experience a painful abscess until the apical periodontitis is at an advanced state. This means that the patient can have a latent infection and not realize it. The studies conducted at the University of Helsinki show that while in this latent phase, there is still an increased risk that a person can develop a heart condition.

2. A gum (or periodontal) infection and gum disease

Gum disease and gum infections can also be a contributing factor for heart disease. There are four levels of gum disease: gingivitis; and early, moderate, and severe gum disease.

Gingivitis is not a minor condition, though some people see it that way. While it is the mildest form of gum disease, this doesn’t mean that patients should take it lightly. Gingivitis can quickly and easily progress. Thankfully, the first stage of gum disease is reversible, whereas the others cannot be.

Gum disease occurs when bacteria ends up under the gums via plaque and calculus (tartar). Plaque is the white, sticky substance on teeth that we remove as we brush our teeth. However, if the plaque is not removed well, or even at all, it can harden and become calculus.

When plaque and calculus are under the gum line, the gum tissue becomes inflamed and irritated. Patients who have gum disease typically experience gum sensitivity, tenderness, and bleeding. Imagine a sliver in your finger that feels uncomfortable until it’s removed. If it’s not removed, eventually an infection can develop. It is similar with gum disease. 

As periodontal disease progresses, the gums can recede from the teeth, as does the bone. The end result is loose teeth that will likely need an extraction.

Swift action is necessary for a patient who presents with gum disease and/or a gum infection. The patient must seek treatment right away. Not only is the patient at risk for tooth loss, the inflammation and bacteria associated with the gum disease could eventually damage the heart muscle.

Team up with You First Dental in Airdrie to combat decay & disease

More people now realize that their overall health is often dependent on their dental health. Those who take care of their teeth and gums add to the list of things they do each day to keep their bodies healthy and strong. 

At You First Dental, we do all we can to help our patients live healthy lives. We provide our patients with quality, up-to-date, and innovative dental treatment. Our comprehensive treatments and services can relieve patients’ pain, improve the appearance of their teeth and smile, and help them keep as many teeth as possible.

We encourage all of our patients to come in for regular examinations and dental cleanings. When we work together, our patients not only take steps to improve their smile, they take one more step to help reduce the risk of pain and heart disease caused by a tooth infection. 

At You First Dental, we’re committed to you. We put your dental needs first. Contact us today to schedule an appointment. We look forward to being of service!