California Dental Practice Act: 2 Hour Course

Ethics and the Law

CDA Code of Ethics: (Adopted by the California Dental Association House of Delegates November 2012)

“The privilege of being a dentist comes with a responsibility to society and to fellow members of the profession to conduct one’s professional activities in a highly ethical manner. California Dental Association (CDA) members agree to abide by the tenets embodied in the American Dental Association (ADA) Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct (ADA Code) and the CDA Code of Ethics. The CDA Code of Ethics, in general, pertains to 1) service to the public, 2) conduct in a dental office and between dental practitioners, and 3) how dental practices and services are promoted. By following the Code of Ethics, dentists build public trust and maintain high ethical standards for the benefit of all.”

Ethics, healthcare professional, n. the principles and norms of proper professional conduct concerning the rights and duties of health care professionals themselves and their conduct toward patients  and  fellow  practitioners,  including  the  actions  taken  in  the  care  of patients and family members. (Mosby's Dental Dictionary, 2nd edition.)

Service to the Public

Service to the public is the primary obligation of the dentist (or allied dental professional) as  a  professional  person.  Service  to  the  public  includes  the  delivery  of  quality, competent, and timely care within the bounds of the clinical circumstances presented by the patient.

Accepting Patients into the Dental Practice

A dentist may exercise reasonable discretion in accepting patients into the dental practice. Yet, in keeping with the core value of justice, it is unethical for a dentist to refuse to accept a patient into the practice, deny dental service to a patient, or otherwise discriminate against a patient because of the patient's gender, sexual, racial, religious, or ethnic characteristics.

Standards of Care

Substandard care is unethical for a dentist (or allied dental professional) to render, or cause to be rendered. The California Dental Practice Act defines acts which fall below a standard of care.

Informed Consent

Fully informed consent is required for the ethical practice of dentistry and is the patient’s right of self-decision. The patient’s legal guardian must be informed if applicable.

Explanation of Treatment

A dentist has the obligation to fully explain proposed treatment, reasonable alternatives, and the risks of not performing treatment to the patient. The dentist shall explain treatment in a manner that is accurate, easily understood, and allows  for the patient to be involved in treatment decisions.

Reporting Abuse

A licensed dental professional must report suspected abuse.
Patient Confidentiality

All members of the dental team are obliged to safeguard the confidentiality of patient records. Not only is confidentiality a supreme ethical issue, the federal HIPAA laws must complied with specifically in the dental office.

Obligation to Inform

A dentist (or allied dental professional) has the obligation to inform patients of their present oral health status. A dentist has the duty  to report instances of gross and/or continual faulty treatment.  A dentist’s evaluation would include finding out from the previous treating dentist under what circumstances and conditions the treatment was performed. A difference of opinion as to preferred treatment shall not be communicated to the patient in a disparaging manner that implies mistreatment.

Continuing Education

Licensed dental professionals have the obligation to advance their knowledge and keep their skills freshened by continuing education throughout their professional lives.

Representations and Claims

In  order  to  properly  serve  the  public,  dentists  have  the  obligation  to  represent themselves in a manner that contributes to the esteem of the profession.

False and Misleading Statements

A dentist (or allied dental professional) may not mislead a patient or misrepresent in any way, either directly or indirectly, the dentist’s (or allied dental professional’s) identity, training, competence, services, or fees.   A statement or claim is false or misleading when it:

  • Contains a material misrepresentation of fact;
  • Is materially misleading because the statement as a whole makes only a partial disclosure of relevant facts; or
  • Is intended or is likely to create false or unjustified expectations of favorable results.

Subjective statements about the quality of dental services can raise ethical concerns. In particular, statements of opinion may be misleading if they are not honestly held, if they misrepresent the qualifications of the holder, or the basis of the opinion, or if the patient reasonably interprets them as implied statements of fact. The fundamental issue is whether the advertisement, taken as a whole, is false or misleading in a material respect.

Resources for Ethics Discussion

  • American Dental Association Principles of Ethics and Code of Professional Conduct
  • American Dental Association Constitution and Bylaws
  • State of California Department of Consumer Affairs Dental Practice Act
  • California Dental Association Bylaws
  • CDA Code of Ethics

Adopted by the California CDA Code of Ethics
Adopted by the California Dental Association House of Delegates November 2012-Dental Association House of Delegates November 2012

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