Dentists are healthcare professionals. They are doctors of oral health who have earned a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD), Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), or Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) degree. They have received the proper certifications to practice dentistry in their chosen province and have passed a comprehensive exam administered by the National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB).
Responsibilities: What your dentist does
Your dentist has many responsibilities such as promoting oral health, preventing and diagnosing oral diseases like gingivitis, coming up with all-encompassing treatment plans for their patients, ensuring that any anesthetics administered are safe, understanding X-rays and interpreting them for their patients, performing surgical procedures to repair teeth, bone and soft tissues in the oral cavity and keeping an eye on the growth and development of their patients’ teeth and jaws.
Certified dentists in Canada have a duty to the public to:
- Provide education about nutrition and preventative care
- Manage oral conditions and work with the patient’s general physician to help determine the best course of action to keep conditions associated with oral health like diabetes, heart disease and stroke from further damaging the patient’s health
- Administer aesthetic improvements through cosmetic dental techniques
- Restore damage to the teeth, gums, and oral cavity caused by tooth decay and gum disease
- Correct issues stemming from misalignment, overcrowding, and poor spacing with orthodontic appliances
- Reconstruct and replace lost teeth
- Perform oral surgery to remove damaged teeth and other dental deformities
Besides these responsibilities, your dentist must follow a strict code of ethics put in place by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (RCDSO).
What are the principles of the RCDSO?
Public trust plays an important role in how the dental profession operates. Without trust and a commitment by each individual dentist to adhere to the highest standards of ethical conduct, dentistry would not be a regulated and safe entity. The principles put forth by the RCDSO are based on fairness, contribution, compassion, respect and integrity.
- Dentists are responsible for the health and wellbeing of all their patients.
- They must obey the law and provide care without discrimination and respect for the patient’s human rights and dignity.
- Dentists need to maintain the highest level of professionalism and competency.
- They must respect the right of patients to see the dentist of their choosing.
- They have to administer timely and competent care while remaining consistent with the standards required by the profession of dentistry.
- Dentists must offer an unbiased explanation of the risks, costs, and options associated with all dental care and receive the patient’s content prior to administering treatment.
- They will recognize their limitations and refer patients to specialists or others more qualified should the need arise.
- They will always consider the well-being of their patients when making referrals to other healthcare professionals.
- Dentists are never allowed to overstate or embellish their qualifications in speech and advertising so as not to mislead the public.
- They must maintain an office environment that is healthy and safe for staff and patients.
- The dentist needs to accept responsibility for the care administered by authorized dental personnel and staff.
- They can only provide unconventional treatment with full disclosure and patient consent.
- The dentist can only make evaluative remarks about the work of others once efforts to understand the patient’s prior treatment history have been made.
- The patient/dentist relationship must have dignified boundaries.
- Dentists must protect the personal and health information of patients by keeping it confidential.
What are the core values of the RCDSO?
The principles set forth by the RCDSO were created in tandem with their core values. Your dentist must follow these core values along with the principles in order to fully adhere to the code of ethics. These values represent the bedrock of how your dentist operates.
- Autonomy: Dentists must understand and respect their patients’ rights in order to make educated decisions based on personal beliefs and values.
- Beneficence: The welfare of the patients must never be compromised and the harm must be minimized to ensure the patient receives the maximum benefits of their treatment.
- Compassion: All dentists must act with compassion to ensure they are sympathetic to the patient’s concerns and pain.
- Fairness: All individuals, patients, staff, colleagues, and third parties must be treated in a just and equitable fashion.
- Integrity: Dentists must behave with honour and decency while being truthful and upholding the standards of professional dentistry.
Your dentist doesn’t have to be your best friend – but it is their duty to treat all patients with respect and integrity. If your current dentist does not follow the RCDSO code of ethics or demonstrates a lack of respect for you, report them immediately. Whether it is for a root canal or a cleaning, you deserve to be treated courteously while you are visiting your dentist.