U.K. dentists still want to be called 'Doctor'

Most U.K. dentists think continuing to use the courtesy title of "Doctor" is appropriate, according to a poll conducted by the British Dental Association (BDA).

Four-fifths of survey respondents believe the title is still appropriate to use. The survey was carried out between late July and early September as part of a discussion hosted on the communities section of the BDA website. The debate attracted high levels of interest, with the section being viewed more than 2,800 times, the BDA noted in a press release.

The results of the poll will be used to emphasize the profession's concerns in the BDA's formal response to the General Dental Council's consultation document regarding advertising that was issued earlier this year. That document includes a suggestion that the title "Doctor" should not be used by dentists:

Dentists should not use the courtesy title Doctor unless they have a Ph.D. or are a medically qualified and registered doctor. Its use as a courtesy title is potentially misleading to patients and it is important that patients do not assume that you have training or competences which you do not possess.

This reverses the council's previous position, first established in 1995, that it did not regard the use of the courtesy title "Doctor" as a matter of serious professional misconduct.

"This issue has generated unprecedented levels of interest from contributors to the BDA's online communities," said Susie Sanderson, chair of the BDA's Executive Board. "Participants have sent a very strong signal about their wish to continue using the title 'Doctor.' It is clear from the contributions to this forum that, as long as it is made clear that the individual in question is a dentist, patients do not seem to be confused by the use of the title. The practice of referring to dentists in this way is long-established overseas and is also now firmly embedded in the U.K."

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