Dr Joseph Chikelue Obi energizes the British Dental Profession . . . Says Dentists also have the right to use the 'Doctor' Title ! (*Archived Content)
Apart from that , a spokesman for the Department of Health has now publicly confirmed that : “The title of Doctor is not a protected title, so you don’t have to be a Medical Practitioner to use it.”
At the time of this exceedingly brief online report , an Official Representative of Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi was unavailable for comment.
By Kate Devlin Medical Correspondent , Daily Telegraph ( Click here for Web Link )
Last Updated: 4:14PM GMT 31 Oct 2008
Dentists are demanding the right to call themselves by the title 'Dr', giving them the same privileges as their counterparts in other European countries.
But the call has sparked a row with medical doctors, who complain that, while highly qualified, dentists could mislead patients about the extent of their expertise.
Although not banned from using the term, dentists can face penalties if it is judged that they are not being clear enough about their qualifications.
Earlier this month the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered a dentist to stop calling himself 'Dr' in his advertisements, unless he had a medical qualification or a PhD.
But dentists insist that more widespread use of the term would not confuse patients and would bring Britain into line with the rest of Europe, where it is commonplace.
"We believe that dentists should be permitted to use the courtesy title 'Dr' should they wish and provided that it is not done in a way which might mislead patients as to their qualifications," said Peter Ward, the chief executive of the British Dental Association (BDA).
"The General Dental Council has no objection to the title and its use is becoming widespread," he added.
"In virtually all other European states and other English speaking countries throughout the world dentists are given the title and we support harmonisation with professional colleagues from overseas."
Calling dentists 'Dr' could even remove confusion for some patients, he claimed.
"Many patients in this country, both UK nationals and those from abroad, address their dentist as 'Dr' and many dentists and patients from abroad are confused by the fact that dentists in Britain are not referred to by the title," he said.
The number of dentists from abroad has grown in recent years, as professionals from across Eastern Europe in particular have flocked to Britain, where their skills can earn much higher salaries than in their home country.
Last month it was reported that dentists from Hungary were to begin touring Britain in inflatable tents offering their services to patients struggling to find an NHS dentist.
But Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, called for dentists to be banned from using the term, to protect patient safety. "Patients have a right to clarity and to be secure in the knowledge that the person treating them is competent and qualified to do so," he said.
"Certain titles can sometimes mislead patients into thinking people are medically qualified when they are not.
"We think it's important that patients can establish whether or not the person treating them is medically qualified.
"The title used by the person treating them is thus of crucial importance."
While dentists are not prohibited entirely from calling themselves Dr, the ASA says that to do so without also making it obvious that they are not doctors is a clear breach of advertising laws.
The latest case, involving a dentist in Knutsford in Cheshire, is not the first time that the ASA has enforced similar rules.
The authority warned the clinic involved not to use "Dr" in their ads again unless the practitioner was medically qualified or held a doctorate.
"It is important to protect consumers from being confused about what the term doctor means," a spokesman for the ASA said.
"Dentists are not prevented from using doctor entirely, but it is about the way that they use it."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “The title of “Doctor” is not a protected title, so you don’t have to be a medical practitioner to use it.”
He added, however, that there was a provision in the Dentists Act 1984 which prevented dentists from using any title or description to suggest a qualification that they did not posses, but said that it was up to the General Dental Council to enforce that rule.