SECTION 3 — Principle: Beneficence ("do good")

The dentist has a duty to promote the patient's welfare.

This principle expresses the concept that professionals have a duty to act for the benefit of others. Under this principle, the dentist's primary obligation is service to the patient and the public-at-large. The most important aspect of this obligation is the competent and timely delivery of dental care within the bounds of clinical circumstances presented by the patient, with due consideration being given to the needs, desires and values of the patient. The same ethical considerations apply whether the dentist engages in fee-for-service, managed care or some other practice arrangement. Dentists may choose to enter into contracts governing the provision of care to a group of patients; however, contract obligations do not excuse dentists from their ethical duty to put the patient's welfare first.

Code of Professional Conduct

3.A. Community Service. Since dentists have an obligation to use their skills, knowledge and experience for the improvement of the dental health of the public and are encouraged to be leaders in their community, dentists in such service shall conduct themselves in such a manner as to maintain or elevate the esteem of the profession.

3.B. Government of A Profession. Every profession owes society the responsibility to regulate itself. Such regulation is achieved largely through the influence of the professional societies. All dentists, therefore, have the dual obligation of making themselves a part of a professional society and of observing its rules of ethics.

3.C. Research And Development. Dentists have the obligation of making the results and benefits of their investigative efforts available to all when they are useful in safeguarding or promoting the health of the public.

3.D. Patents And Copyrights. Patents and copyrights may be secured by dentists provided that such patents and copyrights shall not be used to restrict research or practice.

3.E. Abuse and Neglect. Dentists shall be obliged to become familiar with the signs of abuse and neglect and to report suspected cases to the proper authorities, consistent with state laws.

Advisory Opinion

3.E.1. Reporting Abuse and Neglect. The public and the profession are best served by dentists who are familiar with identifying the signs of abuse and neglect and knowledgeable about the appropriate intervention resources for all populations.

A dentist’s ethical obligation to identify and report the signs of abuse and neglect is, at a minimum, to be consistent with a dentist’s legal obligation in the jurisdiction where the dentist practices. Dentists, therefore, are ethically obliged to identify and report suspected cases of abuse and neglect to the same extent as they are legally obliged to do so in the jurisdiction where they practice. Dentists have a concurrent ethical obligation to respect an adult patient’s right to self-determination and confidentiality and to promote the welfare of all patients. Care should be exercised to respect the wishes of an adult patient who asks that a suspected case of abuse and/or neglect not be reported, where such a report is not mandated by law. With the patient’s permission, other possible solutions may be sought.

Dentists should be aware that jurisdictional laws vary in their definitions of abuse and neglect, in their reporting requirements and the extent to which immunity is granted to good faith reporters. The variances may raise potential legal and other risks that should be considered, while keeping in mind the duty to put the welfare of the patient first. Therefore a dentist’s ethical obligation to identify and report suspected cases of abuse and neglect can vary from one jurisdiction to another

Dentists are ethically obligated to keep current their knowledge of both identifying abuse and neglect and reporting it in the jurisdiction(s) where they practice

(See also: Report of the ADA Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs on Advisory Opinion 3.E.1. Reporting Abuse and Neglect.) (PDF)

3.F. Professional Demeanor in the Workplace. Dentists have the obligation to provide a workplace environment that supports respectful and collaborative relationships for all those involved in oral health care.

Advisory Opinion

3.F.1. Disruptive Behavior in the Workplace. Disruptive Behavior in the Workplace. Dentists are the leaders of the oral healthcare team. As such, their behavior in the workplace is instrumental in establishing and maintaining a practice environment that supports the mutual respect, good communication, and high levels of collaboration among team members required to optimize the quality of patient care provided. Dentists who engage in disruptive behavior in the workplace risk undermining professional relationships among team members, decreasing the quality of patient care provided, and undermining the public’s trust and confidence in the profession.