Dentists: Responsibilities to Their Patients, Employers, Associations, and Their Own Personal Integrity

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Just like all other healthcare professionals, dentists have responsibilities to their patients, employers, associations and, most important, to their own personal integrity. It is so serious that the dentist be prepared to make sound decisions and actions based on ethical concerns for each patient. Dentists, also face a number of ethical issues related to the treatment of their patients. Some issues are clearly medical, involving the treatment of the patient. Other issues are related to the management of a dentist’s practice, such as employment, corporate sponsorship and advertising. Dentists know that healthy teeth are not always attractive. A patient may have perfectly healthy teeth that, through discoloration or a lack of alignment, do not have an appealing look or the patient does not like to smile much. For example, when a patient visits our dentist for a checkup or a routine cleaning, should the dentist remark on these problems and suggest corrective procedures? On one hand, this may make the patient feel insecure about the look of their teeth, possibly allowing the dentist to look as though he is taking advantage of the patient financially on this insecurity in the form of an expensive cosmetic procedure. Then again, a patient may be unaware that their problem can be fixed; to not inform the patient of this find might be considered negligent. This raises tough ethical questions for dentists. Most dental offices have corporate sponsorship which means the dental offices prefer to use a certain product like Colgate or Crest and buy these products from a certain company. Often, after cleaning a patient's teeth or performing a routine procedure, dentists will offer the patient free dental hygiene products, such as tooth brushes, packs of floss and tubes of toothpaste. According to (Hasegawa 2001, p. 118) “dentists often receive many of these free products from medical supply companies seeking to advertise their products. While most patients are happy to...
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