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Celebrating 150 Years of Putting Patients First:
The ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Conduct

2016 marks the 150th anniversary of The ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Conduct. Known as “the ADA Code,” members voluntarily agree to abide as a condition of membership, committing to high ethical standards of conduct. Much like the profession, the ADA Code has evolved throughout the past 150 years, however its fundamental purpose—putting the welfare of patients first—remains constant. 

ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct (PDF)

The dental profession holds a special position of trust within society. As a consequence, society affords the profession certain privileges that are not available to members of the public-at-large. In return, the profession makes a commitment to society that its members will adhere to high ethical standards of conduct. 

The ADA Code is, in effect, a written expression of the obligations arising from the implied contract between the dental profession and society.

The ADA Code has three main components: The Principles of Ethics, the Code of Professional Conduct and the Advisory Opinions.


  • Principles
  • Code of Professional Conduct
  • Advisory Opinions

The ADA Code is an evolving document and by its very nature cannot be a complete articulation of all ethical obligations. The ADA Code is the result of an on-going dialogue between the dental profession and society, and as such, is subject to continuous review.

Although ethics and the law are closely related, they are not the same. Ethical obligations may—and often do—exceed legal duties. In resolving any ethical problem not explicitly covered by the ADA Code, dentists should consider the ethical principles, the patient's needs and interests, and any applicable laws.