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Ethics in Dentistry: Part II - Codes of Ethics

Course Number: 528

Codes in Dentistry

All professional codes are evolving documents that embody the contract between a particular profession and the public. Both the ADA and the ADHA as well as all health care professional organizations have an agreement to uphold the profession’s code of ethics as a condition of membership. Since dentists and dental hygienists work together both groups should be familiar with each other professional codes and how they exhibit their commitment to the patient.

ADA Dental Code PrinciplesADHA Dental Hygiene Values
AutonomyIndividual autonomy
JusticeJustice and fairness
Societal trust

The approach of each organization is very similar and the application of principles or values in line with other health care professions. Confidentiality in the dental hygiene code is called out separately but is grounded in the principle of autonomy. Societal trust is so important that the dental hygiene code listed it along with the other values and principles.

A side-by-side comparison of the two organizations first codes clearly demonstrates the aspects of duty, obligation and the primacy of the patient over self-interest of the clinician. Other dental groups, such as the American College of Dentists, a professional organization that is by invitation only, was founded in 1920 to elevate the standards of dentistry, encourage continuing education and acknowledge those individuals who provide exceptional contributions and leadership to dentistry and society. The College, through its many publications and programs, stresses excellence, ethics, professionalism and ethical decision-making for members and non-members of the greater dental community. The Code of Conduct of the American College of Dentists can be found at

For students of dentistry and dental hygiene, the code of ethics are vehicles for educating novices about the obligations of the profession, informing them about the basic beliefs and fundamental principles of the group, and providing guidelines regarding the expected behavior of a clinician and practitioner. Each major association, the ADA and ADHA support a student version of its main organization to encourage the ethical and professional development of the student learner.11