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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 83-84

Ethical practice: The need of the hour

Professor, Department of Orthodontics and Dento-facial Orthopaedics, Dr. D. Y. Patil Dental College and Hospital, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication28-Nov-2016

Correspondence Address:
Ravindra Manerikar
Professor, Department of Orthodontics and Dento-facial Orthopaedics, Dr. D. Y. Patil Dental College and Hospital, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2348-2915.194830

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How to cite this article:
Manerikar R. Ethical practice: The need of the hour. J Dent Res Rev 2016;3:83-4

How to cite this URL:
Manerikar R. Ethical practice: The need of the hour. J Dent Res Rev [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Jun 26];3:83-4. Available from: https://www.jdrr.org/text.asp?2016/3/3/83/194830

In the dental profession, we are facing newer challenges and opportunities throughout our careers from loans and monetary concerns to the patient and office issues. These challenges not only affect city practices but also small town practices. However, while facing these challenges, we must keep it in mind to not deviate from our path of righteousness.

We need to decide which actions are morally right or wrong. We must be aware of the principles that constitute the backbone of professional ethics so that we can employ them in our day to day practice and in turn, enhance our physical, social, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. There are two aspects to morality:

  1. Professional obligations and
  2. Ethics.

  Professional obligations Top

As professionals we have certain obligations toward society:

  • Respect: We can all agree that respect forms an integral part of human relations. Respecting patients encompasses considerations of empathy, care, individuality, dignity, and attention to patient's needs. Disregarding these considerations in a dental clinic will have a detrimental effect on the practice
  • Integrity: Integrity is oneness between your inner and outer self
    The people we serve need us. They come to trust us, and we need to keep that trust
    We must always strive to do unto others what we would like them to do to us. For instance, if we know that a particular instrument is not sterile, we should not use it on a patient unless it meets the standards we would ensure for ourselves. Do what you say you will do. If we have integrity, we have everything
  • Be competent: For this, we need to constantly update ourselves. We need to attend conferences hosted by professional associations, subscribe to specialty journals and keep abreast with current knowledge and practices in the field, and train regularly in newer techniques. There is no substitute for professional excellence
  • Service to society: The greatest service to society is practicing ethically, where we provide care as a competent clinician.

  Ethics Top

Ethics is an intrinsic component of dental practice. Every day, dentists face situations that challenge their ethical judgment and behavior.

The word "ethics" is derived from the Greek word "ethos" meaning custom or character.

Ethical conduct is desirable since it helps us build a positive relationship with patients, public, office staff and professionals. This is vital because, in this day and age, where the personal touch is reducing with the surge in use of virtual media, patients must be able to trust us. Noncompliance is disagreeable to a healthy ethical practice because it can lead to professional censure or loss of professional status.

Ethics affect virtually every decision made in a dental office.

The following are the principles of professional ethics:

  1. Autonomy: We have a duty to treat the patient according to their requests, within the limits of accepted treatment protocols, and to protect the patient's confidentiality while doing so. Under this principle, the dentist's primary obligation includes involving the patients in treatment decisions in a meaningful way, with due consideration being given to the patient's needs, desires and abilities, and safeguarding the patient's privacy. We must obtain informed consent before starting any treatment
  2. Nonmaleficence: We have a duty to protect the patient from harm and avoid inflicting harm. We have to know our limitations and understand fully when to refer to a specialist or other professionals. For this, we need to keep our knowledge and skills up-to-date. As dental professionals, we should try to keep our services at par with the best practices in the field and provide a good standard of care based on the available contemporary evidence and authoritative guidance. We should also make ourselves aware of laws and regulations governing the practice
  3. Consultation and referral: Seek consultation whenever a patient is likely to benefit by utilizing services of those who have specialized skills, knowledge, and experience. Similarly, the specialists or consulting dentists, upon completion of their care, should revert the patient to the referring dentist for future care. We should not have a vested interest in the ensuring recommendation
    Second opinions: We should seek for second opinions in the interest of the patient whenever faced with a situation that demands the same without compromising the patient's confidentiality
  4. Ability to practice: Any dentist who contracts any disease or becomes impaired in any way that might endanger patients or dental staff should limit the activities of practice to those areas that do not imperil patients or staff
  5. Patient abandonment: Once a dentist has undertaken a course of treatment, the dentist should not discontinue that treatment without giving the patient adequate notice and the opportunity to obtain the services of another dentist. Care should be taken that the patient's oral health is not jeopardized in the process
  6. Personal relationships with patients: Dentists should avoid interpersonal relationships that could impair their professional judgment or risk the possibility of exploiting the confidence placed in them by a patient
  7. Beneficence (do good): Our primary obligation is service to the patient and the public-at-large. We should learn to plac service before self. This can be done by competent and timely delivery of dental care within the bounds of clinical circumstances presented to us by the patient, which in turn is achieved by judicious balancing of risks and benefits. We should collect all facts, identify options alternatives do what is best with consideration to needs, desires, and values of the patient
  8. Justice: We should strive to deliver care without prejudice that includes not discriminating based on race creed, color, religion, sex, national origin, or blood borne pathogens. We should be fair in our dealings with patients, colleagues, and the society. Being honest with patients comes with a sense of professional security
  9. Veracity (truthfulness): We should communicate truthfully and be honest and trustworthy in our dealings with people and patients. We have an obligation to keep all our promises made during treatment decisions
  10. Confidentiality: Dental professionals have a legal and ethical duty to keep patient information discrete. We must be discrete and preserve information concerning the patient, his/her diseases, and treatment. It is the responsibility of the dental professional to treat any information about the patient as confidential and only use it in the context in which it was given. Confidential information should be kept in a secure place at all times. We should take adequate steps to prevent accidental or deliberate unauthorized disclosure.

Practicing in a field that demands us to be at our competitive best, we face an ever-increasing pressure to perform. Gaining short-term benefits in our practice such as financial gain should not disillusion us from path of righteousness that will carry us through in the long run. It is important not to lose sight of the ethics of how we treat our patients and what our true mission values are toward their care and our work.


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