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House of Delegates pass resolution to amend Code of Ethics

October 31, 2016

By David Burger

Making a point: San Antonio-based dentist Dr. Joshua Austin speaks during a reference committee hearing for Committee D (Legislative, Health, Governance and Related Matters) at ADA 2016 – America's Dental Meeting in Denver while Dr. Monica Hebl, of Milwaukee, and Dr. Craig Herre, of Leawood, Kansas, stand in line and wait to speak. The committee heard comments during the hearing about Resolution 65H-2016, which the House of Delegates later passed. The resolution amended the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct so that the code would permit dentists practicing in areas of dentistry recognized as specialties in their jurisdictions — but not the ADA — to still announce as specialists.
— A new resolution passed by the ADA House of Delegates permits dentists to announce as specialists recognized in their jurisdictions even if it's not one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the Association.

Resolution 65H-2016 amended the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct to allow for this change. Before the amendment, Section 5.H of the Code specified that there were only nine dental specialties recognized by the ADA that could announce their specialties.

In addition, another part of the Code was amended in the resolution. Before the resolution passed, dentists could not ethically practice any aspect of dentistry except for the announced specialty. The amendment now specifies that a dentist holding specialty degrees should be permitted to practice to the full scope of the dental licenses that they hold so long as they maintain adequate expertise in the specialty.

"It's a fairly significant change," said Dr. Michael Halasz, Ohio-based general practitioner and chair of the Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs. "The bottom line is that it keeps dentists in line with the Code of Ethics, which puts patients first."

Dr. Halasz said that the legal landscape concerning the recognition of specialties has gone through dramatic change in recent years. Compelled by court decisions, states have begun to recognize specialties beyond the nine dental specialties recognized by the ADA. The trend of states recognizing specialties in addition to those recognized by the ADA is expected to continue, he said.

"We're trying to stay ahead of the issue," he said.