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Letters: Ethics and professionalism

January 20, 2014

Dr. Brian Shue's My View ("Unnecessary for Gentlemen," Dec. 9, 2013, ADA News) was both enlightening and disheartening. The bottom line is that the profession of dentistry is not considered ethical by 40 percent of the population.

He asks, "What would our dental forefathers think?" and then discusses dentistry 150 years ago in an effort to suggest that we are doing pretty well in regards to ethics and professionalism. Many dentists such as myself feel that the profession needs to vastly improve in this regard, and that one of the main problem areas is the way in which we allow ourselves to be viewed by the public. Rather than professionally and discreetly announce our practices, the new norm is to advertise in a fashion that mimics hairdressers and personal injury attorneys. Coupon specials, billboards and problematic treatment claims all lower the profession in the eyes of the public.

Exacerbating the above is the "sales pitch/close the deal" type of practice management philosophy that masquerades for business continuing education these days. The public feels that it is being sold something that it either doesn't want, or doesn't feel should be sold. I agree with the public. Dentistry is a health care commodity. Some aspects are elective. We have an obligation to discover and treat disease and offer alternatives. That doesn't mean that we invent pathology, nor sell remedies. The public feels that we are doing both; hence our lowly approval rating (of 62 percent) as measured in the recent Gallup "Honesty/Ethics in Professions" poll.

Norm Rosene, D.D.S.
Chico, Calif.

Editor's note: The 2012 Gallup poll findings indicate just 4 percent of respondents rated dentists as "low" or "very low" in terms of honesty and ethical standards, 33 percent rated dentists as "average" and 62 percent rated dentists "high or very high". The poll posed a single question—"Please tell me how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in these different fields" and did not ask respondents about dentists' marketing or advertising practices. Dentists are not fielded each year in the Gallup poll. The 2012 results placed dentists in the top five professions for honesty and ethical standards. You can view responses for the year dentists were included in the Gallup poll.