Ethics and Dentistry

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Keeping your mouth healthy is an essential part of your overall health, and your dentist plays a key role. Your dentist is a doctor who specializes in keeping you healthy, and your relationship with him or her is very important. The best doctor-patient relationships are based on trust.

When you choose an ADA member dentist, you’re choosing a dentist who has agreed to the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct. Every ADA member dentist makes a professional promise to put your health and well-being first, and is committed to dealing with you ethically and honestly.

Adopted by the ADA in 1866, the ADA Code is under constant review. While legal and ethical obligations are related, they are not the same. Ethical obligations may–and often do–exceed the letter of the law and what a doctor must do. The ADA Code is an essential part of your doctor-patient relationship. And it’s a core part of who we are as ADA member dentists.

These are the five ethical principles that make up the ADA Code:

Principle 1: Self-governance
You have the right as a patient to be involved in your treatment decisions, and your ADA dentist has a duty to honor your decisions within acceptable treatment parameters and to safeguard your privacy.

Principle 2: Do no harm
Your ADA dentist has a duty to protect you from harm and must keep his or her knowledge and skills current.

Principle 3: Do good
Your ADA dentist has a duty to promote your welfare by delivering competent and timely dental care that takes into consideration your needs, desires and values.

Principle 4: Fairness
Your ADA dentist has a duty to treat all people fairly and deliver dental care without prejudice.

Principle 5: Truthfulness
Your ADA dentist has a duty to be honest and trustworthy.

To make sure you are seeing an ADA dentist who has promised to follow these five principles, ask if your dentist is an ADA member or use the ADA Find-a-Dentist tool to find an ADA dentist near you.