Teledentistry policy amended to align with Code of Ethics | American Dental Association

Teledentistry policy amended to align with Code of Ethics

Policy set forth by 2020 House of Delegates could conflict with ethical principles

Dr. Meredith Bailey
Dr. Bailey
The ADA policy statement on teledentistry was amended by the 2021 House of Delegates so a potential conflict with the ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct is avoided.

The amendments were submitted by the ADA Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs because the council believed that portions of the teledentistry policy adopted by the House of Delegates in 2020 conflicted with part of the ethical principles in the Code.

“The role of the council is to ensure our policies and governance documents are consistent and aligned with our principles and ethical code,” said Meredith Bailey, D.M.D., chair of CEBJA. “The amendments to the ADA teledentistry policy eliminated previous conflicts while maintaining a broad policy that can be utilized by every state.” 

The Code indicates that it is unethical to abandon a patient who is undergoing a course of treatment.  However, in certain instances, CEBJA believed the teledentistry policy adopted in 2020 could lead to the abandonment of patients undergoing treatment.

Under the principle of nonmaleficence in the Code, it says of patient abandonment: “Once a dentist has undertaken a course of treatment, the dentist should not discontinue that treatment without giving the patient adequate notice and the opportunity to obtain the services of another dentist. Care should be taken that the patient’s oral health is not jeopardized in the process.”

According to the background statement submitted by the council, the conflict between the 2020 teledentistry policy and the Code puts the dentist in an untenable situation — either the dentist ignores the teledentistry policy in favor of proceeding in accordance with the guidance of the Code, or ignores the ethical guidance of the Code and adheres to the 2020 teledentistry policy.

The amendments submitted by CEBJA and passed by the House of Delegates in Resolution 86H-2021 extinguished that conflict.