Medical Credentials

The use of abbreviations is an accepted practice in the medical profession, but most potential patients don’t know what all those letters mean behind a doctor's name. The following list contains common credentials in the cosmetic surgery field. Don't be afraid to ask surgeons questions about their qualifications. As professionals, they should willingly talk to you about their training and certification.

Credentials1

MD
This stands for medical doctor. You should also be aware of the fact that it's not illegal for MDs to refer to themselves as cosmetic surgeons - even when they have had no specialized training.

FRCSC
This stands for Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. To be certified in plastic surgery, doctors do a five-year residency program after receiving their MD. Training involves ongoing oral and practical evaluation. If successful, the doctor becomes an FRCSC, with a specialty - often in ophthalmology, otolaryngology or plastic surgery, for example. Sometimes you will see the term "plastic surgeon" used generically by a doctor who has not actually trained in this area; legally, he or she must always add the specialty in which certification has been obtained.

MD-Otolaryngology
You usually find this designation used in tandem with FRCSC (explained above). It means that the surgeon?s specialty is otolaryngology - or ears, nose and throat. Otolaryngologists focus on surgery of the face and neck, and generally refer to themselves as cosmetic facial surgeons when working in this field.

FRCPC
A Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada goes through the same certification process as an FRCSC candidate. Instead of choosing a surgical specialty, however, these doctors focus on a medical specialty, such as a dermatologist, who uses drugs and medication to treat patients.

FACS
A doctor who has these initials after his or her name is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. To be successful, Canadian candidates must pass an evaluation of their education, training and surgical competence.

Board Certified
It sounds good, but what does it mean? In Canada, our only board is The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. In the U.S., it could be any one of a number of organizations, such as the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ABFPRS), the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or the American Board of Hair Restoration Surgery (ABHRS). To gain certification, an applicant is subject to a peer review and must take exams. Fellows - this term is primarily used to designate someone who has achieved Royal College certification in his or her specialty (such as FRCSC or FRCPC). It is also used to designate membership in an academic society, such as the Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Facial Plastic Surgery or the Canadian Society for Aesthetic (Cosmetic) Plastic Surgery. Each surgical and medical specialty usually has such a society. Membership as a fellow usually requires prior FRCSC or FRCPC certification in the specialty or a related specialty. The primary goals of these are sharing knowledge and public information.

To check on the specialty of a doctor and to verify certification, contact The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada, 613-730-8177, 1-800-668-3740, www.rcpsc.medical.org.

Other organizations that provide information are The Canadian Society for Aesthetic (Cosmetic) Plastic Surgery, 905-831-7750, www.csaps.ca; The Canadian Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 905-569-6965, www.facialsurgery.org; and The American College of Surgeons, 312-202-5000, www.facs.org.

Dental credentials

Any dentist can do esthetic work or call himself or herself a cosmetic dentist, but it's not a recognized specialty in Canada. However, a general dentist will have areas they practise more than others, or he or she may refer you to a specialist: an orthodontist to have your teeth straightened, a periodontist for gum work or a prosthodontist for extensive or complicated prosthetics. In certain cases where surgery on the upper or lower jaw is required, you may need to see an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Credentials2

Depending upon where they've trained in North America, dentists receive either a DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or a DMD (Doctor of Medical Dentistry). In addition to general dentistry, they can perform oral surgery, give injections and prescribe medication. The emphasis of dental training is on diagnosis, oral medicine, disease prevention and the promotion of dental health. Cosmetic work (crowns, veneers, implants) is a major part of their training too. Each province or territory licenses dentists and sets standards.

After graduation, some dentists choose to specialize in one of nine different areas that require an additional two to three years of university and/or hospital-based training.

Both general dentists and specialists can also receive instruction in the use of sedation and anesthesia in dental practice. Sometimes you will see a PhD or other advanced degree followed by the specialty qualification. This can indicate that the dentist is also involved in teaching or research. Another designation is a Fellowship of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada (FRCDC). This college conducts the national specialty examinations across Canada, the successful completion of which is a requirement to gain a fellowship.

Since there is no recognized specialty in cosmetic procedures, how do dentists get their training? Most practitioners focus on the area for which they have an aptitude, and there are dozens of courses from which they can choose. Continuing education departments in many dental schools, both in Canada and the United States, offer ongoing seminars and workshops. Or, dentists choose to join professional associations - such as the Toronto Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry - that actively promote learning opportunities.

In choosing the right dentist for your needs, start by consulting your regular dentist or by getting a referral from a friend, family member or colleague. Once you have a dentist in mind, ask to see pictures and make sure you have questions ready. Do you want your teeth whiter or bigger, the shape or the angle changed? This will help you and your dentist determine the best approach to take.

For more information, visit the websites of the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (www.rcdso.org), or of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (www.aacd.com).

For a list of medical associations with more information click here.