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Letters: Dentists are physicians

October 05, 2015 In ADA President Maxine Feinberg's appropriately appreciative letter to four legislators who introduced the "Small Business Healthcare Relief Act," ("Association Thanks Legislators for Small Business Healthcare Relief Act," Sept. 16 ADA News) which was introduced as H.R. 2911 in the House and S.1697 in the Senate, I noted and applaud her urging our members to support the act because we are medical professionals, even though we are not obligated to provide our employees with health care coverage. Stating our responsibilities by referring to us medical professionals rather than health or dental or oral health professionals serves to reinforce that dentistry cannot be separated from medicine. Moreover, beyond the historical precedents, having medicine or surgery in our degrees should allow us to refer to ourselves as physicians, with the qualifying adjective of oral, similar to what podiatrists, chiropractors, and optometrists have been doing for several years. Further support for this position is the often-overlooked provision of Social Security/Medicare that most doctoral level health care providers are classified as physicians, according to the Compilation of the Social Security Laws, part E-miscellaneous provisions:

The term "physician," when used in connection with the performance of any function or action, means: a doctor of medicine or osteopathy legally authorized to practice medicine and surgery by the state in which he performs such function or action (including a physician within the meaning of section 1101(a)(7)); a doctor of dental surgery or of dental medicine who is legally authorized to practice dentistry by the state in which he performs such function and who is acting within the scope of his license when he performs such functions; a doctor of podiatric medicine for the purposes of subsections (k), (m), (p)(1), and (s) of this section and sections 1814(a), 1832(a)(2)(F)(ii), and 1835 but only with respect to functions which he is legally authorized to perform as such by the state in which he performs them; a doctor of optometry, but only for purposes of subsection (p)(1) with respect to the provision of items or services described in subsection (s) which he is legally authorized to perform as a doctor of optometry by the state in which he performs them; or a chiropractor who is licensed as such by the state (or in a state which does not license chiropractors as such, is legally authorized to perform the services of a chiropractor in the jurisdiction in which he performs such services), and who meets uniform minimum standards promulgated by the secretary, but only for the purpose of sections 1861(s)(1) and 1861(s)(2)(A) and only with respect to treatment by means of manual manipulation of the spine (to correct a subluxation) which he is legally authorized to perform by the state or jurisdiction in which such treatment is provided. For the purposes of section 1862(a)(4) and subject to the limitations and conditions provided in the previous sentence, such term includes a doctor of one of the arts, specified in such previous sentence, legally authorized to practice such art in the country in which the inpatient hospital services (referred to in such section 1862(a)(4)) are furnished.

Donald B. Giddon, D.M.D., Ph.D.