What is an ethical Dentist? Can you imagine a dentist who doesn’t take an ethics course? How can dentists do their jobs ethically? An ethical dentist is someone who values his patients’ health and does everything in his power to provide them with the best dental care. In fact, he believes in the words of the Hippocratic oath taken by the ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates. His goals are not only to make his patients’ teeth healthy and attractive, but also to keep them free from fear and respect.
There are different levels of unethical behavior for dentists to exhibit. There is the least amount of it that would result in a professional misconduct case. For example, if a dentist forgets to ask patients about any pre-existing conditions they might have, this is an unethical act. This can be seen as negligence or lack of diligence on the part of the dentist. However, if a dentist asks a patient about every medical condition they might have, as well as taking time to check this information, this could be considered less than negligent.
An unethical dentist, however, might take the steps above to avoid detection of problems. He may devise an elaborate plan for his office to avoid detection of potential problems with the patients, or he might ignore signs of tooth decay or gum disease. Some unethical dentists might even encourage patients to lie about their medical histories, and many times this can result in patients receiving sub-standard care, or worse, may lead to severe dental problems down the road. The unethical dentist’s actions would be deceitful, plain and simple. But would they ever be held legally responsible?
Well, no, because an ethical dentist is not an attorney, not required to become one in order to practice law. But dental school will teach ethics courses. It is absolutely essential that all graduates go through such a course, as it is the first step toward practicing law. Attorneys are thoroughly versed in the law and how it applies to their line of work, so why would dental students not learn about this?
There are numerous stories of unethical dentists, including a case of a man who seemingly died of oral cancer before his dentist could detect the disease. Other examples include a dentist who was caught putting dental instruments in patients’ mouths without their permission, as well as dental offices that failed to conduct routine dental checks on their employees, which allowed bacteria to build up in the offices and cause further dental problems for their patients. A dental technician was fired after refusing to remove plaque from a patient’s mouth. These and other unethical acts occurred throughout the country, and some cases actually resulted in death.
Ethics courses for dentists should be required to impart information about patients’ legal rights, as well as dental insurance and privacy. In addition, the dentist should be taught how to deal with angry or troubled patients, as well as how to take care of patients’ dental records. Such lessons might also explain the repercussions of malpractice and deceit, such as how to avoid false rectifying and cosmetic surgery, as well as the repercussions if a patient’s insurance company denies payments for medical treatment.
For the most part, though, dentists usually do not require formal ethics courses. They receive general education credits during their years of dental school and often choose not to take ethics-based classes to save money. But in certain states, such as Montana, residents are required to take such courses, and face stiff penalties if they fail. State laws vary, so it is best to check with your state’s attorney general or consumer protection agency before taking any classes, especially if you practice in Montana.
Attorneys generally do not require ethics courses for dentists. Attorneys general tend to focus on consumer protection and criminal defense, and receive ethics education only in specific areas. States differ, so it is best to check with your state’s attorney general. Some states require that lawyers take ethics courses, but many only require that attorneys participate in ongoing continuing education courses (which may be offered online) on issues that affect the practice of law. However, dentists cannot practice law without first taking an ethics class. So if you want to practice law, consider taking an ethics class for dentists.