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This paper relates recent modes of dental practice to changes that the public and government are likely to ask the health care professions to make in the future. As usual they are asking for the best of all worlds. First, that we maintain the clinical model to the highest standards of personal dental care based and tested against the best research at our disposal, whilst we ensure there is no reduction in the high technical standards for which british dentists have a reputation. Second, that the profession is required to consider ways of providing care on the medicosocial model for the whole community at an economic level the country will afford. The broad changes in dental education have been reviewed, from the technical apprenticeship to the establishment of strong university departments in teaching hospitals. The importance of a sound biomedical foundation and of research both to education and the credibility of dental practice as a primary health care profession is stressed if the profession is to retain its position as a sister to medicine and not slide down to that of a technical ancillary.