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LETTER TO EDITOR Table of Contents   
Year : 2010  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 464-465
Invited comment

Deptartment of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Ragas Dental College and Hospital, 2/102, East Coast Road, Uthandi, Chennai - 600 119, India

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Date of Web Publication29-Sep-2010

How to cite this article:
Ranganathan K. Invited comment. Indian J Dent Res 2010;21:464-5

How to cite this URL:
Ranganathan K. Invited comment. Indian J Dent Res [serial online] 2010 [cited 2021 Apr 19];21:464-5. Available from:

It is with interest and trepidation I read the "letter to editor" on tooth morphology. Let me start by saying that the sentiments expressed in the communication are often discussed in academic committees addressing dental syllabi, and I empathize with the concern but not necessarily to the solution being advocated

I would like to point out that the reasoning on which the suggestions are built on, opens a Pandora's Box and therein lies my trepidation I alluded to in the beginning of this response. Let me explain by quoting the letter and my concerns

  1. "…..the study of tooth morphology is an age-old exercise that serves no purpose in the present day context. [1],[2],[3] …"

    This is not what the quoted references say: Reference 1 starts by pointing out that tooth morphology is important and goes on to say that the component pertaining to "root" carving needs looking into.
  2. "…., because most of the restorative works are done by dental technicians…
    "…. can become skilled surgeons (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) even without learning tooth morphology. [1]"

    This statement is incorrect and does not reflect the quoted reference. Also, if one needs to do occlusal equilibration/correction, to name one procedure, it would be difficult without proper knowledge of occlusal morphology.
  3. "... dental technicians need no more knowledge, regarding tooth morphology, other than identifying the exact tooth to be replaced. In view of these, it is not essential for dental students or practitioner's…"

    Comparing the expertise of a dental technician and extrapolating it to dental surgeons who deal with patients is inappropriate and does not reflect the goals of the two fields.
  4. "…Even when one learns all the tricks in tooth morphology there is no guarantee that they could pass their examination successfully"

    The emphasis on exams is a fundamental basis of the system of education and it is improper to use that as an excuse to undermine the usefulness of any subject.
  5. "Similarly, teaching undergraduate students to learn all those uncommon pathological lesions, that even our best experts would not have come across in their busy specialty practice, could equally make students taste failure at the examinations..."

    This allusion is not germane to the issue being discussed. Be that as it may, one should not forget that dental surgeons treat patients, and if one took some time to review literature one would come across numerous references where dentists-general practitioners and specialists, have made a difference to the life and health of the patients by diagnosing systemic disease (AIDS, renal disease, leukemia to name some) by identifying the oral lesions-which they would not have if they had not been taught to do so.

    Reducing all professional skills to the level of passing in exams is very non-professional and does not reflect an understanding of the holistic nature of medical/dental education.
  6. "Since a large proportion of our population live below the poverty line, and are illiterate and live in the rural area…."
    "…by incorporating bioinformatics, molecular biology and etc, in dental curriculum.."

    How does knowing molecular biology help in dental care in practice and resource constrained setting?
  7. "…we intend to train them to become good researchers later in their life rather than to practice the art of dentistry..."
What is it we want our students to do practice / research / both? It is really difficult to comprehend what exactly is being recommended here.

I do agree with the sentiment that tooth morphology as it is taught in many institutions needs an evolutionary change, but to recommend its total exclusion or abolition of carving is too simple and short-sighted a solution. Just because the mode of teaching needs an audit and revision one cannot be simplistic in outlook and recommend its elimination.

The need of the hour is for experts from all branches to sit down and address the deficiencies and make the subject of tooth morphology interesting, interactive and relevant to practice (and probably carry a lesser weightage on the exam component if that is a concern), if that is the consensus.

   References Top

1.Sivapathasundharam B. Tooth carving. Indian J Dent Res 2008;19:181.  Back to cited text no. 1  [PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
2.Baskar PK. Tooth carving. Indian J Dent Res 2009;20:130.  Back to cited text no. 2  [PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
3.Rao A. Tooth carving. Indian J Dent Res 2010;21:146.  Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  

Correspondence Address:
K Ranganathan
Deptartment of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Ragas Dental College and Hospital, 2/102, East Coast Road, Uthandi, Chennai - 600 119
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-9290.70786

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