Background When the future status of dentistry is considered, scholarship in the profession plays a key role. It is by scholarship that dentistry distinguishes itself as a learned and esteemed profession, and this position paper aims to explore and promote this vital core value. Methods As Fellows of the American Dental Education Association's selective Leadership Institute, the authors spent over a year critically examining the role of scholarship in dentistry, which was identified as a critical issue for the profession. A review of the health care literature was conducted to inform this paper's position. Results Scholarship is clearly the trait that distinguishes a profession from a trade, as evidenced by trends in other health care professions, as well as dentistry. Although dentistry is a learned profession rightly meriting that distinction, there are a few notable areas that can be improved. Conclusions Because scholarship defines a profession, dentists as doctors and the leaders in oral health should demonstrate the highest scholarship; absence of scholarship risks perception of dentistry as a trade. All dentists can consistently manifest scholarship by integrating basic science, as well as by incorporating the dental evidence-base, into daily practice.