Dentist can take title of doctor

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The Independent Online

Health Editor

A dentist who campaigned for 20 years to win the right to use the title "doctor" yesterday dismissed claims that some practitioners would use it as an excuse to raise their fees.

Dr Douglas Pike - the General Dental Council's decision to permit use of the title is effective immediately - said that his sole aim was to bring Britain into "harmony" with the rest of the world. Dr Pike, who practises in Sudbury, Suffolk, said: "We are primary healthcare workers just like GPs. We prescribe drugs, take biopsies and X-rays, and our training is very similar."

Dentists who wish to use the title must ensure that the words dentist, dental surgeon, or dental practitioner, are also used in close proximity. Some dentists said it would too expensive to name plates on their premises and letter-heads. "It really isn't worth the hassle," said one.

The GDC earlier this month voted to delete a paragraph from its guidance in Professional Conduct and Fitness to Practice, known as The Red Book, which precluded dentists from being called "doctor." Legal advice had indicated that the paragraph - the GDC's interpretation of Government legislation - was not necessarily correct, according to Amolak Singh, general secretary of the General Dental Practitioner's Association, and a member of the GDC.

At a council meeting on 14 November, 35 members voted in favour of deleting the offending paragraph, with nine against, and five abstentions. Objections included the suggestions that it was a "grandiose", or even a "self-elevating" gesture.

The British Medical Association said it had no objection to the move. "We are fairly relaxed about it," said a spokesman said who declined, however, to offer congratulations.