Dental Ethics and Responsibilities

It is difficult to both run a dental practice and advertise for it. We complicate the situation for doctors and dentists when there is an expectation between balancing advertising for your own practice and running it with the best care.

On one hand, being a dentist, whether you are from Austin, Texas or any other place in the world, means that there is a level of ethics and responsibility put in place. Not unlike a doctor or a counselor. On the other, it seems like there is an overreliance on stunts and uniqueness to drum up business in a highly competitive market. This conflicting mindset results in a confusing mess like a dentist in Anchorage, Alaska extracting a tooth on a hoverboard for a stunt on video.  Many people are charging that dentist with gross negligence, fraud, theft in the first degree, and a lot of things that lead up to 10 years of imprisonment.

Almost every functioning adult knows that standing on a hoverboard and removing a tooth is a dangerous stunt that could have caused a lot of damage to a patient. However, that doesn’t mean that they are aware of what ethical standards are in place for dentists.  So, it makes sense to talk about it.

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Who Makes the Rules for the Dentist?

Before we talk about what the rules are, we need to know who decides these things in the first place. Usually, there is a council or body made up of various representatives. This is common in medical fields and has been a precedent set up in scientific and educational fields, like universities.

With dentistry, the group that usually puts the ethic rules in place, is a Dental Association. With America, it is the ADA or the American Dental Association.  This covers everything from state to state, and has been in authority over the dentists, back in 1859. It is also the largest national association in the world with over 141,000 members today.

5 Tenants of Dental Ethics

There are 5 different aspects that make up dental code of conduct. They cover what dentists should keep in mind, patient treatment, and set professional standards for the people under that association. So, what are they, and what part do they play for dentists and patients?

 Patient Autonomy

In this context, it covers both patient involvement and access to patient records. Simply put,  it tells dentists that they should inform patients of what treatment is being proposed and let them be aware of any other reasonable alternatives. Dentists also should let the patient have an involvement in their own treatment.

For personal records, they should be able to furnish records on request under the applicable laws.  They should not share those records to anyone unless they have explicit permission from the patient, even if they are trying to consult with another dentist.

Patient Non-maleficence

Don’t do any harm to the patient if you can avoid it.  The steps that you can take to perform these actions include a variety of preparation on the end of the dentist and relationship ethics with patients.

  • If a dentist educates themselves to make sure they understand the ins and outs of how to treat a patient effectively.
  • If a dentist is stumped, or requires more safeguarding, they are supposed to find consultation from another expert.
  •  All dentists are required to try and prevent and notify  patients of any bloodborne pathogen exposure.
  • Dentists should not discontinue treatment without any prior given notice.
  • Dentists should avoid interpersonal relationships that could impair professional judgement.


This means that a dentist has a duty to promote the patient’s welfare. This can range from the welfare of the community to the prevention of abuse for a single patient.

  • Dentists should be leaders of their community to maintain public esteem.
  • They owe society by observing a rule of ethics.
  • They also have an obligation to share their results and benefits of investigative efforts to the public once it has gone through safety measures.
  • Patents and copyrights should not restrict research or practice
  • Dentists should be familiar with the signs of abuse and report it to the proper authorities.

Justice and Truthfulness

Points four and five tend to fall close enough in category . A dentist needs to be fair in their patient selection discretion, provide reasonable emergency services, and provide appropriate criticism /testimony.

They have a duty to communicate truthfully, and maintain both personal and intellectual integrity.  That means no hiding the nature of a service or tacking on anything uncessecarry.

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