Govt Proposal To Allow Dentists To Practice General Medicine Evokes Mixed Response

The government on April 22 has called a meeting of various stakeholders including the Dental Council of India (DCI), to discuss a proposal to allow dental graduates to practice family or general medicine, following a bridge course.

The modalities of allowing dental graduates to practice general medicine are still being worked out. The DCI, the statutory body to regulate the Dental Education and the profession of Dentistry in India had suggested a bridge course with a duration of 3 years.

A Bachelor of Dental Surgery or BDS graduate recognized by DCI will be eligible for the bridge course. Admissions into the bridge course will be based on an entrance exam, and an equal weightage of BDS marks.

The government wants to channelize dental graduates who are in excess to serve primary healthcare needs of rural and semi-urban areas, where there is a shortage of MBBS doctors.

According to the government, the doctor-population ratio of India is 1:1655 as compared with the WHO standards of 1:1000, in addition, given lack of facilities and remunerative salaries, there is an unwillingness among many doctors to serve rural areas.

The Urban-Rural ratio of doctor density is 3.8:1 that translates roughly to about four doctors in urban areas for every one doctor working in rural areas, whereas little over 60 percent of the population in India is rural.

Dentistry to medicine

India currently has more than 300 dental colleges that churn out about 30,000 BDS graduates every year.

Only 10 percent of them pursue post-graduation, the rest have to try their hand at a private practice which is not easy, especially in urban areas due to saturation of the dental market, and starting practice in rural isn’t a feasible due low awareness of oral health.

Many dental graduates, have to end up taking up jobs unrelated to their professional education.

“There is a lot of unemployment in the dental field, it’s a welcome proposal to allow dental graduates to practice general medicine,” said K Chaitanya Ram, a pediatric dentist.

“If you look at the BDS and MBBS, three out of four years we study common subjects. There are many skilled dental graduates who can be harnessed to expand healthcare access, but will the powerful MBBS doctors lobby allow it is a question mark,” Ram said.

Opposition from mainstream doctors

The move may face stiff opposition from MBBS doctors, as they fear this will open flood gates for thousands of dental graduates to pursue general medicine.

The government had to back down after a similar proposal to allow Ayush (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) doctors to practice allopathy or modern medicine was met with vociferous opposition from modern medical practitioners.

“There is no global precedent of utilizing dentists for general medicine, both are two separate streams having different skill sets, though based on allopathy,” said a doctor and an analyst, who didn’t want to be named given the sensitivity of the subject. – Moneycontrol

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