Dentists' Obligations and Responsibilities to their Patients

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Dentists are very important health professionals within our society. Like all other health experts, dentists, too, have their own professional code of conduct that guides their operations and work. It specifies the types of conduct that are either expected of them or prohibited.  

As a dental patient, it is your obligation too to understand the dentist's duties towards you so that you can be able to raise an issue with them in case they have fallen short of their obligations.

Impartial dental care to all

According to the professional code of conduct laid out by the American Dental Association, "dentists should not refuse to accept patients into their practice". They shouldn't deny dental service to the patients who really need it basing on factors like race, skin color, sex or nationality. It would also be unethical for the dentist to deny treatment to a patient just because of certain disease infection. Instead the dentist should consult with the patient's physician to find out if the patient's health would considerably be affected by dental treatment.

Obligation to safeguard the patient's privacy

All dentists are bound by their respective member associations to safeguard the confidentiality of their patients' health records. This implies that they have to maintain all the patients' treatment records in a way that is reliable. Such information should only be disclosed upon your own request or to another dentist who may want to know your previous dental records in consideration of the appropriate treatment. This must be done within the applicable guidelines.

Ensure patient's involvement in the treatment process

As a patient, you have a right to fully get involved in the treatment decision making with your dentist. In this way, the dentist should let you know of the available treatment options and their substitutes. This will help you to choose the most applicable according to your physical needs and ability to cope with that treatment.

Provision of emergency dental care

Dentists are obliged to offer immediate medical attention regardless of whether you are their patient or not. In case you are not a regular patient to the dentist, after the emergency has been dealt with, they are obliged to return you back to your regular dentist unless you choose to stay on their treatment. This should be done willingly and not under the dentist's influence. 

You have a duty to understand your dentist's professional code of conduct as this will help you know their responsibilities towards you as a patient. This will help you to stand up for your rights to privacy in case they are violated, to make the right treatment decisions and to receive dental care no matter your gender, nationality or race.