Dental Ethics: 5 Ethical Dilemmas You’ll Face in Your Dental Practice

dental ethics

Dental ethics can be a minefield for professionals working in the industry. If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’ve struggled with this yourself.

Perhaps you’ve had a few sleepless nights over a decision you’ve made?

Don’t worry; there are plenty of other dentists who can relate to what you’re feeling. So, we’ve created a handy ethics guide for you to refer to, to help you maintain a high standard of practice.

Let’s dive in!

1. Respect the Patient

Patient’s have the right to be involved in their treatment and should be able to decide what’s best for them.

This can sometimes be tough for dentists to accept when you know the patient has made a choice that negatively impacts their health and wellbeing.

However, as difficult as it may be, dentists have to treat the patient taking into account their wishes (providing, they’re within the bounds of treatment).

Years ago, paternalism characterized the medical profession. By this we mean, doctors, dentists, opticians, etc. would take it upon themselves to decide what was best for the patient, sometimes without adequately consulting them about it.

This approach is ethically flawed. Instead, as a dentist, you need to focus on gaining informed consent from your patients. This allows the patient autonomy and the ability to govern what happens to their body.

2. Don’t Harm the Patient

It goes without saying, you shouldn’t harm your patients. Your duty is to promote good oral health and to provide safe treatments for your clients.

Part of offering a reliable service is ensuring you keep up to date with all the latest skills and developments in the dental industry. Both theoretically and practicality- this is the only way to ensure you provide the safest care for your clients.

3. Don’t Discriminate

You should never be discriminatory, and should always give the best possible care and attention regardless of any of the following:

  • Race
  • Creed
  • Religion
  • Social class
  • Ethnicity
  • Current health conditions
  • Previous health conditions

If you witness someone in your practice allowing their prejudices override their professionalism, then as difficult as it may be, you have an ethical duty to report such behavior.

This issue usually rears its ugly head when it comes to accepting patients for treatment, so be sure to keep an eye out for this issue.

Another scenario may arise when a dentist decides to abandon their patient halfway through a complicated multi-appointment treatment plan.

A dentist can determine that a patient is too tricky to work with, and as a result gives up on them. Keep an eye out, and be sure to monitor this if it becomes a regular incident.

Occasionally, patients demonstrate abusive behavior, if that’s the case, the dentist is more than within their rights to transfer their treatment to another qualified dentist.

Be sure to explain why this change has occurred to the patient, and warn them that your practice doesn’t tolerate this kind of behavior.

4. Be Honest

You need to be completely honest with your patients. It’s the only way they’ll be able to understand their diagnosis and the treatment available to them.

Not only is this ethical, but it also makes good practical sense. When you’re honest with your patients, you build a rapport with them.

This improves your working relationship with your clients, and will hopefully allow you to achieve more together.

5. Don’t Sell Needless Services

In an age where dentists run like businesses, there’s an increasing pressure to ‘sell’ services. Sometimes, patients get given treatment plans that don’t give them the full array of treatment options.

As a dentist, you need to make it clear to your clients the difference between the crucial and the optional treatments.

This doesn’t mean you can’t put together an extensive treatment plan; it just means you need to ensure the patient fully understands their options before they part with their hard-earned cash.

Most importantly, you should NEVER try and get your patient to opt for more expensive treatment by scaring them into submission. Saying things like ‘their teeth will break,’ when they most probably won’t, is ethically wrong.

Typically, patients don’t have the medical knowledge to refute such malpractice, which makes it even more critical that you don’t misuse your position of power.

If possible, provide patients with at least two or three different treatment options. Then, explain the pros and cons of each of the plans. You should also keep the ‘doing nothing’ option on the table.

This demonstrates a respect for your patient’s autonomy as well as their health and wellbeing.

6. Respect Your Patient’s Privacy

You can’t give away your patient’s personal information to others. You have a duty to keep your client’s medical records confidential.

It’s standard practice to provide a copy of the patient’s records to them, so they can see exactly what you have on file about them. This also provides a level of accountability and helps to build trust with your clients.

For information on how to demonstrate good professional behavior at work, click the following link and read more about it.

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