Patients who come to your dental practice expect to be treated with a basic level of care and dignity. Knowing the most important ethical principles for dentists can ensure you emphasize ethical care within each patient interaction.
Learn more about dental ethics and how your practice can go above and beyond to uphold integrity for patients.
Why Are Ethics in Dentistry Important?
Upholding ethical principles in dentistry is crucial to your practice’s compliance, reputation, and overall success. Patients need to feel confident that your practice prioritizes their safety and health every time they step foot in your office, and maintaining dental ethics is an obvious sign that you care about your patients. On the other hand, failing to uphold these principles could leave your dental practice liable for mistakes, leading to malpractice claims and a serious hit to your reputation.
You may have gone into the dental industry for many reasons, but no matter your motivation, the patient should always be your top priority. Taking care to maintain ethics within your practice will ensure that patients have the best possible experience and walk away better than when they arrived.
Basic Ethical Principles for Dentists
Below are a few basic principles of dental ethics and tips for how your practice can support them.
Ensure Patient Autonomy
Patient autonomy is a basic principle in the ADA’s code of ethics for dentists. It refers to upholding the right of patients to make informed decisions about their treatment.
Your dental practice can support patient autonomy by:
- Clearly laying out several treatment options for patients without giving preference to the most profitable options
- Ensuring patients understand the individual stages of a treatment
- Documenting a patient’s informed consent to a specific treatment
- Listening to patients’ anxieties and answering questions thoroughly
Promote Patient Well-Being
Everything you do should be in the patient’s best interest. The principle of beneficence refers to prioritizing patient welfare to maximize the benefits they receive from your practice.
Your practice can uphold beneficence by:
- Providing recommendations tailored to each patient’s needs
- Staying attuned to patients’ emotions and offering solutions to ease their physical and emotional discomfort
- Taking the time to thoroughly assess a patient’s condition and determine the best treatment option
Avoid Intentional or Unintentional Harm
It may seem like a no-brainer, but the principle of non-maleficence is another core component of dental ethics. It means avoiding intentionally or unintentionally harming patients by weighing the risks of a treatment against the benefits and choosing the treatment that poses the most benefits to the patient.
You can practice non-maleficence by:
- Collecting all relevant medical history to assess the risks of a treatment for a patient’s health needs
- Sanitizing and cleaning all equipment thoroughly to prevent the spread of infections
- Following adequate safety protocols during procedures to prevent harm
- Participating in continuing education to improve safety measures for patients
Treat Patients Fairly
Avoiding bias within your dental treatments is another important tenet of dental ethics. You should treat all patients equally regardless of their race, class, background, financial situation, or other diversifying factors.
Your practice can prioritize the fair treatment of patients by:
- Giving patients the same amount of time for similar appointments
- Treating patients with respect at all times
- Making accommodations as necessary for patients with different cultural backgrounds or disabilities
Maintain Confidentiality and Privacy
As a dental professional, you probably have HIPAA laws ingrained into your psyche. Confidentiality and privacy are two huge ethical principles that every staff member must maintain. Failing to comply with HIPAA could cause your licenses to be taken away, preventing you from practicing dentistry.
At a minimum, your practice should do the following to uphold confidentiality and privacy:
- Safeguard patient records against unauthorized users
- Only use high-security software, including in your patient loyalty program, and practice automation systems
- Practice data breach response plans so you can quickly resolve security issues
- Conduct HIPAA training regularly to ensure that all staff members understand and stick to these guidelines
Dental Intelligence Can Give You Time to Prioritize Dental Ethics
Using a full-scale dental practice performance solution like Dental Intelligence can give you more time in the day to prioritize dental ethics and improve the patient experience. Even better, Dental Intelligence includes numerous features that can help you uphold ethical principles, like secure privacy measures, streamlined consent forms for dental treatment, and customizable treatment plan templates.
Request your free Dental Intelligence demo today to learn more about this end-to-end practice performance solution.