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Ethics for Dental Hygienists Back to Course Index

 

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ETHICS

FOR DENTAL HYGIENISTS

 animated-tooth2

 

INTRODUCTION

 

A dental hygienist is a licensed professional who specializes in preventative oral health and focuses on techniques to enhance oral hygiene. The dental hygienist helps the patient maintain excellent oral health; however the final diagnosis of disease and/or treatments solely lies with jurisdiction and/or approval granted by the dentist.

 

The scope of practice of dental hygienists is controlled by state boards in most states and encompasses tasks such as:

 

Cleaning (known as prophylaxis): Teeth cleaning is a major part of oral hygiene and involves the removal of dental plaque and tartar from teeth with the intention of preventing cavities/dental caries, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. People routinely clean their own teeth by flossing and brushing.  Dental Hygienists are generally required to remove hardened deposits such as plaque and tartar. 

 

Tooth decay is generally a product of poor dental hygiene.  For example, tooth decay is caused when bacterial processes change carbohydrates like sugar in food left on teeth to acid that de-mineralizes hard tooth structure (enamel, dentin, and cementum (cementum is a specialized calcified substance covering the root of a tooth). If de-mineralization exceeds saliva and other re-mineralization like from calcium, these tissues progressively break down, producing cavities.

 

Scaling and Root Planning: Deep cleaning pertains to tooth scale or scaling and root planning. Scaling involves the removal of plaque from the surfaces of teeth, while root planning entails smoothening dental roots by removing dentin, microorganisms and other substances that cause the roughening of tooth surfaces. If plaque and tartar are allowed to build up on teeth it provides the right condition for bacteria to thrive. The bacteria irritates the gums, which causes them to bleed more easily. You may notice that brushing occasionally causes the gums to bleed.  This indicates an early stage of gingivitis. If gingivitis is not treated, the inflammation may work its way down towards the foundations of the tooth causing a periodontal pocket. Again, within the confines of the pocket, the conditions are such that the bacteria can spread, and result in more damage. Gum disease can break down the support (bone) structures of the teeth, so that eventually, they will become loose. The problem is that until it gets quite severe, the person often has no symptoms. Sadly, the damage to the support structures of the teeth is irreversible. The good news is that if gum disease is caught in time, its progression can be halted and improved upon, and that is the key. To stop gum disease from progressing, a dentist may advise periodontal therapy, or deep cleaning. This gets rid of the bacteria in the pocket and provides the necessary conditions for healing to occur.

 

Taking Radiographs: Tooth decay and other problem in the mouth, gums, and bones are typically identified via x-ray.  They also help to find broken tooth roots left over from dental injuries. Dental X-rays are also used for early identification of problems, even before any symptoms occur. Without x-rays, the dental hygienist and dentist may miss the early stages of decay. X-rays may also be done as follow-up after dental treatments. The following types of X-rays are commonly used. The X-rays use small amounts of radiation.

 

Bitewing X-rays show the upper and lower back teeth and how the teeth touch each other in a single view. These X-rays are used to check for decay between the teeth and to show how well the upper and lower teeth line up. They also show bone loss when severe gum disease or a dental infection is present.

 

Periapical X-rays show the entire tooth, from the exposed crown to the end of the root and the bones that support the tooth. These X-rays are used to find dental problems below the gum line or in the jaw.

 

Application of Sealants and Fluorides. Sealants are a plastic material applied to the chewing surface of permanent molars that provide a physical barrier to bacterial invasion of pits and fissures. Sealants are effective because over 80% of caries in school-aged children occur in the pits and fissures of molars, the place a sealant covers. Fluoride is very effective in the prevention of caries and should be provided both topically, through toothpaste, mouth washes, gel, or varnish, and systemically, through drinking water or fluoride supplementation.

 

The hygienist also provides instructions to patients for their proper oral hygiene and dental care. Most hygienists follow a fairly well defined process of care that consists of the following activities:

 

Assessment:  The assessment generally includes a review of the patients medical history (including prior x-rays, if available), a clinical exam, and a periodontal exam.  The periodontal exam typically includes probing and exploring suspect areas of the patients teeth and gums. The initial content for the patient file is generated during the assessment phase.  It is extremely important for the hygienist to generate documentation (real time) and to build a comprehensive medical history.

 

Diagnoses:  The diagnosis phase is primarily concerned with assessing data relevant to the patients condition to help generate a comprehensive treatment plan. The final diagnoses and treatment options are solely the responsibility of the dentist.

 

Treatment planning: The hygienist is responsible for inputs to the sequential treatment plan.  The plan must be flexible so that changes can be incorporated if the patients medical situation changes.  An accurate and up to date plan helps support insurance claims and other documentation requirements.

 

Implementation: This element of the process begins the treatment plan and documents all relevant activities.

 

Prognosis: Prognosis is a prediction of the probable course and outcome of a dental problem and generally includes information regarding the effectiveness of the specific treatment modality implemented.

 

A dental hygienist may evaluate the patients condition several times over a period of months and years; consequently, the diagnosis and treatment plan must be altered to accurately reflect the patients current condition.

 

 

EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS  dental-hygienist-4

 

In the United States, a dental hygienist must graduate from a program that is accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA).  Also, all hygienists must be licensed by the state in which they practice.  Licensure is contingent upon an applicant successfully completing a minimum of two years of school and passing a written board, as well as a clinical board exam. 

 

Dental Hygienists educational programs offer courses specific to the field of dental hygiene, as well as general educational courses. 

 

Courses specific to dental hygiene may include anatomy, oral anatomy, materials science, pharmacology, radiography, periodontology, nutrition and clinical skills.  The general education courses include algebra, biology and chemistry and various others. 

 

Many hygienists with an associates degree go on to attain a Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene.  This is typically a four-year program and students entering the program must have a high school diploma or equivalent.  Many hygienists extend their education to expand their clinical expertise and help advance their careers.  Some hygienists also attend graduate programs in the field of dental hygiene.  These programs are typically two-year programs and are completed after the bachelors program.  Graduate courses generally include Healthcare Management, Lab Instruction, and Clinical Instruction.

 

 

dentistPROFESSIONALISM

 

Websters dictionary defines a professional as one who is characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of that profession; consequently, professionalism can be viewed as a commitment to a standard of service and conduct that meets or exceeds the standard for the industry.  Also, an element of professionalism is to pursue and advance professional knowledge and skills to better serve the client and the public good. Dental hygienists express their professional commitment individually in their practice and communally through their professional associations and regulatory bodies.

 

 

Standards for Professionalism

Dental Hygienists:

 

        –Personal commitment to uphold the principles and standards of the profession before patients, colleagues, and others;

 

       – Advance individual knowledge and skills through continuing education, self-study programs, self evaluations, and adherence to quality assurance requirements and through the quality of care they provide;

 

        –Perform research to advance general knowledge and skills in the field of oral health by supporting, participating in, or conducting ethically approved research;

 

        –Participate in activities such as peer meetings, committee work, peer reviews and public forms;

 

        –Individual commitment to mentoring, education, and dissemination of knowledge and skills in oral health care;

 

        –Support professional associations and regulatory bodies to promote oral health and professional practice;

 

        –Maintain professional compliance in the workplace; inform employers and colleagues about the principles, standards, laws and regulations to which the industry is held accountable to;

 

        –Collaborate with peers toward the primary end of providing safe, competent, fair, quality care to clients;

 

       – Communicate the nature and costs of professional services fairly and accurately.

 

 

ETHICS  ethics

 

In the broadest sense, ethics are the principles that guide an individual, group, or profession in conduct. Although dental hygienists frequently make independent decisions regarding patient care, they are still responsible to the Dental Hygienist Profession, as a whole, in how those decisions are made. From the earliest concept of providing dental care, the proper behavior and conduct of a dental professional has been closely scrutinized.

 

When discussing what is right versus what is wrong, many confuse morality and ethics.  Ethics is defined as a particular system of principles and rules concerning duty.  As described by Ruth Purtilio, Ph.D., in Ethical Dimensions in Health Professions, morality is concerned with relations between people and how ultimately, they can live in peace and harmony.  Morality is defined as a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct. 

 

The difference between ethics and morals can seem somewhat arbitrary to many, but there is a basic, albeit subtle, difference. Morals define personal character, while ethics stress a social system in which those morals are applied. In other words, ethics point to standards or codes of behavior expected by the group to which the individual belongs.  The American Dental Association provides the Code of Ethics for Dental Hygienists.

 

In every study regarding ethics you will encounter some pretty lofty sounding terms.  The following will explore terms and principles that are considered to be the foundation of ethics for dental hygienist and are noted in the Code of Ethics for Dental Hygienist.

 

Universality
The principle of universality assumes that, if one individual judges an action to be right or wrong in a given situation, other people considering the same action in the same situation would make the same judgment.

 

Complementarity
The principle of complementarity assumes the existence of an obligation to justice and basic human rights. It requires us to act toward others in the same way they would act toward us if roles were reversed. In all relationships, it means considering the values and perspective of others before making decisions or taking actions affecting them.

 

Community
This principle expresses our concern for the bond between individuals, the community, and society in general. It leads us to preserve natural resources and inspires us to show concern for the global environment.

 

Responsibility
Responsibility is central to our ethics. We recognize that there are guidelines for making ethical choices and accept responsibility for knowing and applying them. We accept the consequences of our actions or the failure to act and are willing to make ethical choices and publicly affirm them.

 

Individual autonomy and respect for human beings
People have the right to be treated with respect. They have the right to informed consent prior to treatment, and they have the right to full disclosure of all relevant information so that they can make informed choices about their care.

 

Societal Trust
We value client trust and understand that public trust in our profession is based on our actions and behavior.

 

Nonmaleficence
We accept our fundamental obligation to provide services in a manner that protects all clients and minimizes harm to them and others involved in their treatment.

 

Beneficence
We have a primary role in promoting the well being of individuals and the public by engaging in health promotion/disease prevention activities.

 

Justice and Fairness
We value justice and support the fair and equitable distribution of healthcare resources. We believe all people should have access to high-quality, affordable oral healthcare.

 

Veracity
We accept our obligation to tell the truth and assume that others will do the same. We value self-knowledge and seek truth and honesty in all relationships.

 

Confidentiality refers to the authorized or unauthorized disclosure of information.  Patients have the right to expect that their dental information will not be disclosed without their permission.  Also, professionals should only discuss a patients case with other practitioners when they are in need of a consultation.  These conversations should take place in a private setting.

 

Patient information and records are often kept and shared online which can cause a concern with confidentiality.  Where is all of this information stored, who has access to it and how much can we protect patient data in the computer and internet age?  Some of these questions have been addressed by a series of federal regulations designed to protect patient privacy and the confidentiality of their medical records.

 

 

Dental Professionals/HIPAA Compliance

 

One of the core values of the American Dental Hygiene Associations Code of Ethics is patient confidentiality and respect for human beings. Although privacy and confidentiality are separate concepts, protecting the privacy of a patients information is essentially for confidentiality. In order to ensure protection, always remember to only access patient information that is required to perform the assigned job. Healthcare providers all realize that they only have the right to access the information necessary to do their jobs. This has commonly been referred to as need to know information. The HIPAA regulations refer to this as minimum necessary and the same concept holds true only access patient information necessary to perform assigned job duties.

Recently, these regulations have been well publicized and discussed but it is important to remember and to tell the public that dental health professionals have always protected patient confidentiality. Mary Alice Gaston, RDH, MS, editor of The Journal of Dental Hygiene, provided excellent guidance for all dental professionals by stating all we really need to do is use common sense and handle everyones private health information as though it were our own. 

In addition to ensuring compliance for HIPAA, dental hygienists play an important role in educating patients on their privacy rights. Most of the time a patient spends in the dental chair is spent with their dental hygienist. Dental hygienists are in the perfect position to educate patients, as well as other office staff about HIPAA.

 

HIPPA Facts

 

HIPAA was first developed to make sure that people could not lose their medical coverage when they changed jobs even if they had a pre-existing medical condition.  As with many federal laws the bill grew larger and larger.  HIPAA today affects almost all health care providers or anyone who is employed anywhere where patient information may be located, including hospitals, clinics, dentists, radiologists and more.

 

The first goal of the law is to improve the portability and continuity of an individuals health exempt pre-existing conditions as long as the insureds previous health coverage has not lapsed more than 60 days before any new plan takes effect.  This part of the legislation became effective in late 1996.

 

The second goal is to improve dental care administrative efficiency and effectiveness by standardizing electronic transaction processes and setting standards for the major health care code sets.  The regulations also define and establish standards and national databases for health care providers, health plans and employers.

The third goal of HIPAA is to strengthen the health care industrys ability to combat waste and fraud while protecting and securing patient confidentiality.  You are surrounded by patient data information and it is your responsibility to keep it private and confidential.  If not, your employer and you can face financial and criminal penalties.

 

How the HIPAA Privacy Rule Affects You?

 

The HIPAA Privacy Rule, the first major HIPAA regulation, became effective April 14, 2003. It requires that almost all providers who file claims for reimbursement meet this required date or face significant fines and other penalties. As the original HIPAA regulations to assure patient insurance portability were developing, congress urged healthcare organizations to become more efficient through computerization. But, before doing so, they expanded the regulations to make sure that legal safeguards were added to protect patient information from prying eyes. This is the basis of the privacy rule.

 

A Covered Entity

 

Basically, any organization covered by HIPAAs regulations is a Covered Entity. You see HIPAA regulations cover much more than healthcare providers.  In fact, all health plans and payers of healthcare services are also covered by HIPAA.  Covered Entities include hospitals, clinics, dentists, laboratories, mental health providers, medical imaging services, and just about everyone that delivers any form of health care then files a claim electronically and gets paid or reimbursed for their services.

 

HIPAA is quite serious about these regulations. The penalties for violating the Privacy Rule can range from a simple fine all the way up to 10 years in jail plus a $250,000 fine.

 

Protected Health Information

 

HIPAA Privacy requirements are based on the concept of Protected Health Information or PHI. This is medical information that contains any data element that can be used to link a past, present or future medical condition to an individual. The regulation lists 19 such elements and includes items such as a patient’s name, address, birth date, telephone or fax number, employer, license number, etc.

 

Do You Know Your Organizations HIPAAs Policies and Procedures?

Section 164.530 of the Privacy regulation makes it clear that a covered entity must implement policies and procedures with respect to PHI (Personal Health Information) that are designed to comply with the standards. In other words, your organization must have a set of written policies and procedures when it comes to protecting PHI (Personal Health Information) and you need to read them. 

 

 

values-morals-ethics-2PROFESSIONAL CODES

 

As mentioned earlier, ethics point to standards or codes of behavior expected by the group to which the individual belongs and in the dental profession the codes have been created by The American Dental Association.  Every dental hygienist should make himself or herself knowledgeable on the Code of Ethics for Dental Hygienist developed and approved by the ADA.  Although much of this code is explored through this course, it is pasted in its entirety below the conclusion for your review.

 

The code defines that the purpose of the standards are to:

 

        To increase professional and ethical consciousness and sense of ethical responsibility.

        To lead professionals to recognize ethical issues and choices and to guide them in making more informed ethical decisions.

        To establish a standard for professional judgment and conduct.

        To provide a statement of the ethical behavior the public can expect.

 

It defines professional responsibility as the obligation to practice this profession in a manner that supports the purposes listed above.  It specifically lists the principles:

 

  •         Avoid self-deception, and continually strive for knowledge and personal growth.
  •         Establish and maintain a lifestyle that supports optimal health.
  •         Create a safe work environment.
  •         Assert our own interests in ways that are fair and equitable.
  •         Seek the advice and counsel of others when challenged with ethical dilemmas.
  •         Have realistic expectations of ourselves and recognize our limitations.
  •         Enhance professional competencies through continuous learning in order to practice according to high standards of care.
  •         Support dental hygiene peer-review systems and quality-assurance measures.
  •         Develop collaborative professional relationships and exchange knowledge to enhance our own life-long professional development.
  •         Support the efforts of others to establish and maintain healthy lifestyles and respect the rights of friends and family.
  •         Provide oral healthcare utilizing high levels of professional knowledge, judgment, and skill.
  •         Maintain a work environment that minimizes the risk of harm.
  •         Serve all clients without discrimination and avoid action toward any individual or group that may be interpreted as discriminatory.
  •         Hold professional client relationships confidential.
  •         Communicate with clients in a respectful manner.
  •         Promote ethical behavior and high standards of care by all dental hygienists.
  •         Serve as an advocate for the welfare of clients.
  •         Provide clients with the information necessary to make informed decisions about their oral health and encourage their full participation in treatment decisions and goals.
  •         Refer clients to other healthcare providers when their needs are beyond our ability or scope of practice.
  •         Educate clients about high-quality oral healthcare.
  •         Conduct professional activities and programs, and develop relationships in ways that are honest, responsible, and appropriately open and candid.
  •         Encourage a work environment that promotes individual professional growth and development.
  •         Collaborate with others to create a work environment that minimizes risk to the personal health and safety of our colleagues.
  •         Manage conflicts constructively.
  •         Support the efforts of other dental hygienists to communicate the dental hygiene philosophy of preventive oral care.
  •         Inform other healthcare professionals about the relationship between general and oral health.
  •         Promote human relationships that are mutually beneficial, including those with other healthcare professionals.
  •         Conduct professional activities and programs, and develop relationships in ways that are honest, responsible, open, and candid.
  •         Manage conflicts constructively.
  •         Support the right of our employees and employers to work in an environment that promotes wellness.
  •         Respect the employment rights of our employers and employees.
  •         Participate in the development and advancement of our profession.
  •         Avoid conflicts of interest and declare them when they occur.
  •         Seek opportunities to increase public awareness and understanding of oral health practices.
  •         Act in ways that bring credit to our profession while demonstrating appropriate respect for colleagues in other professions.
  •         Contribute time, talent, and financial resources to support and promote our profession.
  •         Promote a positive image for our profession.
  •         Promote a framework for professional education that develops dental hygiene competencies to meet the oral and overall health needs of the public.
  •         Recognize and uphold the laws and regulations governing our profession.
  •         Document and report inappropriate, inadequate, or substandard care and/or illegal activities by any healthcare provider, to the responsible authorities.
  •         Use peer review as a mechanism for identifying inappropriate, inadequate, or substandard care and for modifying and improving the care provided by dental hygienists.
  •         Comply with local, state, and federal statutes that promote public health and safety.
  •         Develop support systems and quality-assurance programs in the workplace to assist dental hygienists in providing the appropriate standard of care.
  •         Promote access to dental hygiene services for all, supporting justice and fairness in the distribution of healthcare resources.
  •         Act consistently with the ethics of the global scientific community of which our profession is a part.
  •         Create a healthful workplace ecosystem to support a healthy environment.
  •         Recognize and uphold our obligation to provide pro bono service.
  •         Conduct research that contributes knowledge that is valid and useful to our clients and society.
  •         Use research methods that meet accepted scientific standards.
  •         Use research resources appropriately.
  •         Systematically review and justify research in progress to insure the most favorable benefit-to-risk ratio to research subjects.
  •         Submit all proposals involving human subjects to an appropriate human subject review committee.
  •         Secure appropriate institutional committee approval for the conduct of research involving animals.
  •         Obtain informed consent from human subjects participating in research that is based on specifications published in Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations Part 46.
  •         Respect the confidentiality and privacy of data.
  •         Seek opportunities to advance dental hygiene knowledge through research by providing financial, human, and technical resources whenever possible.
  •         Report research results in a timely manner.
  •         Report research findings completely and honestly, drawing only those conclusions that are supported by the data presented.
  •         Report the names of investigators fairly and accurately.
  •         Interpret the research and the research of others accurately and objectively, drawing conclusions that are supported by the data presented and seeking clarity when uncertain.
  •         Critically evaluate research methods and results before applying new theory and technology in practice.

 

SOLVING ETHICAL PROBLEMS

The first step in analyzing ethical issues is obvious, but not always easy: Get the facts. Some issues create controversies simply because we do not bother to check the facts. But having the facts is not enough. Facts by themselves only tell us what is; they do not tell us what ought to be.  Many times it is necessary to consult with other professionals.  It is important to discuss only what it is relevant and only with those in a position to offer guidance.

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

So, what is the answer to solving ethical problems in the dental field?  There is no definitive answer, but if we use the knowledge we have acquired from studying ethics, and mix that knowledge with a little experience, we should have a good recipe for making the best ethical decisions in difficult situations.  Always keep in mind, if you wouldn’t want all of your friends, neighbors and colleagues to read about you doing whatever action you are contemplating doing on the front page of tomorrows newspaper, it is likely that you shouldn’t do the behavior.

 

Please read the Code of Ethics for Dental Hygienists.

 

Code of Ethics for Dental Hygienists

1. Preamble
As dental hygienists, we are a community of professionals devoted to the prevention of disease and the promotion and improvement of the public’s health. We are preventive oral health professionals who provide educational, clinical, and therapeutic services to the public. We strive to live meaningful, productive, satisfying lives that simultaneously serve us, our profession, our society, and the world. Our actions, behaviors, and attitudes are consistent with our commitment to public service. We endorse and incorporate the Code into our daily lives.

2. Purpose
The purpose of a professional code of ethics is to achieve high levels of ethical consciousness, decision making, and practice by the members of the profession. Specific objectives of the Dental Hygiene Code of Ethics are

  • to increase our professional and ethical consciousness and sense of ethical responsibility.
  • to lead us to recognize ethical issues and choices and to guide us in making more informed ethical decisions.
  • to establish a standard for professional judgment and conduct.
  • to provide a statement of the ethical behavior the public can expect from us.

The Dental Hygiene Code of Ethics is meant to influence us throughout our careers. It stimulates our continuing study of ethical issues and challenges us to explore our ethical responsibilities. The Code establishes concise standards of behavior to guide the public’s expectations of our profession and supports existing dental hygiene practice, laws, and regulations. By holding ourselves accountable to meeting the standards stated in the Code, we enhance the public’s trust on which our professional privilege and status are founded.

 

3. Key Concepts
Our beliefs, principles, values, and ethics are concepts reflected in the Code. They are the essential elements of our comprehensive and definitive code of ethics, and are interrelated and mutually dependent.

 

4. Basic Beliefs
We recognize the importance of the following beliefs that guide our practice and provide context for our ethics:

  • The services we provide contribute to the health and well being of society.
  • Our education and licensure qualify us to serve the public by preventing and treating oral disease and helping individuals achieve and maintain optimal health.
  • Individuals have intrinsic worth, are responsible for their own health, and are entitled to make choices regarding their health.
  • Dental hygiene care is an essential component of overall healthcare and we function interdependently with other healthcare providers.
  • All people should have access to healthcare, including oral healthcare.
  • We are individually responsible for our actions and the quality of care we provide.

5. Fundamental Principles
These fundamental principles, universal concepts, and general laws of conduct provide the foundation for our ethics.

 

Universality
The principle of universality assumes that, if one individual judges an action to be right or wrong in a given situation, other people considering the same action in the same situation would make the same judgment.

Complementarity
The principle of complementarity assumes the existence of an obligation to justice and basic human rights. It requires us to act toward others in the same way they would act toward us if roles were reversed. In all relationships, it means considering the values and perspective of others before making decisions or taking actions affecting them.

Ethics
Ethics are the general standards of right and wrong that guide behavior within society. As generally accepted actions, they can be judged by determining the extent to which they promote good and minimize harm. Ethics compel us to engage in health promotion/disease prevention activities.

Community
This principle expresses our concern for the bond between individuals, the community, and society in general. It leads us to preserve natural resources and inspires us to show concern for the global environment.

Responsibility
Responsibility is central to our ethics. We recognize that there are guidelines for making ethical choices and accept responsibility for knowing and applying them. We accept the consequences of our actions or the failure to act and are willing to make ethical choices and publicly affirm them.

6. Core Values
We acknowledge these values as general guides for our choices and actions.

Individual autonomy and respect for human beings
People have the right to be treated with respect. They have the right to informed consent prior to treatment, and they have the right to full disclosure of all relevant information so that they can make informed choices about their care.

Confidentiality
We respect the confidentiality of client information and relationships as a demonstration of the value we place on individual autonomy. We acknowledge our obligation to justify any violation of a confidence.

Societal Trust
We value client trust and understand that public trust in our profession is based on our actions and behavior.

Nonmaleficence
We accept our fundamental obligation to provide services in a manner that protects all clients and minimizes harm to them and others involved in their treatment.

Beneficence
We have a primary role in promoting the well being of individuals and the public by engaging in health promotion/disease prevention activities.

Justice and Fairness
We value justice and support the fair and equitable distribution of healthcare resources. We believe all people should have access to high-quality, affordable oral healthcare.

Veracity
We accept our obligation to tell the truth and assume that others will do the same. We value self-knowledge and seek truth and honesty in all relationships.

 

7. Standards of Professional Responsibility
We are obligated to practice our profession in a manner that supports our purpose, beliefs, and values in accordance with the fundamental principles that support our ethics. We acknowledge the following responsibilities:

 

To Ourselves as Individuals…

  • Avoid self-deception, and continually strive for knowledge and personal growth.
  • Establish and maintain a lifestyle that supports optimal health.
  • Create a safe work environment.
  • Assert our own interests in ways that are fair and equitable.
  • Seek the advice and counsel of others when challenged with ethical dilemmas.
  • Have realistic expectations of ourselves and recognize our limitations.

To Ourselves as Professionals…

  • Enhance professional competencies through continuous learning in order to practice according to high standards of care.
  • Support dental hygiene peer-review systems and quality-assurance measures.
  • Develop collaborative professional relationships and exchange knowledge to enhance our own life-long professional development.

To Family and Friends

  • Support the efforts of others to establish and maintain healthy lifestyles and respect the rights of friends and family.

To Clients…

  • Provide oral healthcare utilizing high levels of professional knowledge, judgment, and skill.
  • Maintain a work environment that minimizes the risk of harm.
  • Serve all clients without discrimination and avoid action toward any individual or group that may be interpreted as discriminatory.
  • Hold professional client relationships confidential.
  • Communicate with clients in a respectful manner.
  • Promote ethical behavior and high standards of care by all dental hygienists.
  • Serve as an advocate for the welfare of clients.
  • Provide clients with the information necessary to make informed decisions about their oral health and encourage their full participation in treatment decisions and goals.
  • Refer clients to other healthcare providers when their needs are beyond our ability or scope of practice.
  • Educate clients about high-quality oral healthcare.

To Colleagues…

  • Conduct professional activities and programs, and develop relationships in ways that are honest, responsible, and appropriately open and candid.
  • Encourage a work environment that promotes individual professional growth and development.
  • Collaborate with others to create a work environment that minimizes risk to the personal health and safety of our colleagues.
  • Manage conflicts constructively.
  • Support the efforts of other dental hygienists to communicate the dental hygiene philosophy of preventive oral care.
  • Inform other healthcare professionals about the relationship between general and oral health.
  • Promote human relationships that are mutually beneficial, including those with other healthcare professionals.

To Employees and Employers…

  • Conduct professional activities and programs, and develop relationships in ways that are honest, responsible, open, and candid.
  • Manage conflicts constructively.
  • Support the right of our employees and employers to work in an environment that promotes wellness.
  • Respect the employment rights of our employers and employees.

To the Dental Hygiene Profession…

  • Participate in the development and advancement of our profession.
  • Avoid conflicts of interest and declare them when they occur.
  • Seek opportunities to increase public awareness and understanding of oral health practices.
  • Act in ways that bring credit to our profession while demonstrating appropriate respect for colleagues in other professions.
  • Contribute time, talent, and financial resources to support and promote our profession.
  • Promote a positive image for our profession.
  • Promote a framework for professional education that develops dental hygiene competencies to meet the oral and overall health needs of the public.

To the Community and Society…

  • Recognize and uphold the laws and regulations governing our profession.
  • Document and report inappropriate, inadequate, or substandard care and/or illegal activities by any healthcare provider, to the responsible authorities.
  • Use peer review as a mechanism for identifying inappropriate, inadequate, or substandard care and for modifying and improving the care provided by dental hygienists.
  • Comply with local, state, and federal statutes that promote public health and safety.
  • Develop support systems and quality-assurance programs in the workplace to assist dental hygienists in providing the appropriate standard of care.
  • Promote access to dental hygiene services for all, supporting justice and fairness in the distribution of healthcare resources.
  • Act consistently with the ethics of the global scientific community of which our profession is a part.
  • Create a healthful workplace ecosystem to support a healthy environment.
  • Recognize and uphold our obligation to provide pro bono service.

To Scientific Investigation…
We accept responsibility for conducting research according to the fundamental principles underlying our ethical beliefs in compliance with universal codes, governmental standards, and professional guidelines for the care and management of experimental subjects. We acknowledge our ethical obligations to the scientific community:

  • Conduct research that contributes knowledge that is valid and useful to our clients and society.
  • Use research methods that meet accepted scientific standards.
  • Use research resources appropriately.
  • Systematically review and justify research in progress to insure the most favorable benefit-to-risk ratio to research subjects.
  • Submit all proposals involving human subjects to an appropriate human subject review committee.
  • Secure appropriate institutional committee approval for the conduct of research involving animals.
  • Obtain informed consent from human subjects participating in research that is based on specifications published in Title 21 Code of Federal Regulations Part 46.
  • Respect the confidentiality and privacy of data.
  • Seek opportunities to advance dental hygiene knowledge through research by providing financial, human, and technical resources whenever possible.
  • Report research results in a timely manner.
  • Report research findings completely and honestly, drawing only those conclusions that are supported by the data presented.
  • Report the names of investigators fairly and accurately.
  • Interpret the research and the research of others accurately and objectively, drawing conclusions that are supported by the data presented and seeking clarity when uncertain.
  • Critically evaluate research methods and results before applying new theory and technology in practice.
  • Be knowledgeable concerning currently accepted preventive and therapeutic methods, products, and technology and their application to our practice.

Approved and ratified by the 1995 ADHA House of Delegates.

 

 

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