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Integrity can be described as doing the right thing even if no one is watching. Throughout our dental education there will be countless times where we will be placed in an ethical situation and our personal integrity will be tested. Faculty & peers alike will not be watching and there’s that split second where a decision of right and wrong has to be made. Sometimes the line of judgment will be quite gray and deciphering what is the right decision to make can be a bit challenging. Nonetheless, a decision will need to be made and the most important witness to our acts is “numero uno.”

According to Dr. Marty Margetis, President of the Central Arizona Dental Society, when trying to determine how one may handle a difficult situation a good question to ask might be: “What kind of ethical foot print will I leave on the world at the end of the day?”

The Student Professionalism and Ethics Club (SPEC) is working hard to present students with ethical situations they might face both in school and post graduation with respective courses of action in efforts to better prepare ASDOH students for the real world and help them fabricate their “ethical foot print.”

The following ethical dilemmas are examples of potential topics for upcoming SPEC meetings: If you found evidence of poor dental work, would you tell the patient?  Tell the dentist?  Tell the dental society? Would you decline treatment to highly infectious patient? How would you obtain cooperation from an uncooperative child? Are you obligated to warn patients of the effects of smoking on oral health? Is it ethical for a dentist to date a patient? and How does ethics play a role in cosmetic dentistry?

In regards to the last point, cosmetic dental procedures are rising in popularity as mass media pushes for that sparkling white smile, yet there seems to be little if any guidance for when and when not to perform such procedures. Here’s an example of a case: An elderly patient walks into your office with several medical conditions. She’s been saving her money for the last 20 years to fix her teeth. She demands cosmetic procedures including implants, teeth whitening and veneers and says she wants a “California white smile.” How will you as the dentist address your patient’s chief complaint?

Come out to the next SPEC meeting in January (look for an e-mail with further details when we get back from winter break) to see how situations like this case can be handled. We would love for your to join the student and faculty dialogue and hear what you have to say!

Robert MacArthur
ASDOH Class of 2013


Student Professionalism and Ethics Club (SPEC) Meetings

Ethics Resources