UW School of Dentistry

DPHS 531

Ethics in Dentistry

Philip Weinstein and Trilby Coolidge

2 Credits / Quarters 12 (Summer, Third Year)*

Course Description

Designed to improve ethical reasoning skills and to convey ethical and legal standards of the profession through small group discussions, on-line readings, assignments and lectures. Grading system: Honors, High Pass, Pass, or Fail.

Educational Objectives

The student will gain knowledge in the principles of dental ethics. The objectives of the course are for the student to be able to:

(1) describe the key features of a profession and how it differs from a guild,

(2) describe how dentistry is regulated and the process used to protect the public,

(3) list the most frequent types of complaints; specify types of disciplinary actions,

(4) specify how communication and negotiation skills and awareness of boundaries and dual relationships can enhance patient satisfaction and reduce complaints,

(5) provide evidence of understanding of the five principles of dental ethics and their application to ethical problems,

(6) in the context of various scenarios demonstrate knowledge of a: paternalism and its alternative, b: issues associated with justice, c: conflicts between various principles,

(7) specify conduct permitted or prohibited by the Code of Conduct and Advisory Opinions of the ADA code of Ethics,

(8) specify conduct permitted or prohibited by Washington State laws for dentists and dental personnel,

(9) given an ethical problem, specify the ethical principles, ADA code, and/or Washington State law that are relevant; describe and discuss solutions,

(10) describe the issues involved with the following “controversies” or problems and specify how to conduct yourself in various scenarios that involve: a. advertising in dentistry; b. personal relationships and conflicts with staff/patients; c. the use of amalgam; d. chemically dependent dentists; e. HIV and other infectious diseases; f. Managed care.

Course Outline

On-line materials introduce basic concepts in dental ethics and regulation. ADA Codes, state law, contemporary ethical issues, ethical dilemmas, and ethical problem solving and communication skills are addressed. Lecture topics include: professionalism, the Dental Quality Assurance Commission, and the ethics of marketing. Small group discussions of ethical problems take place after students complete on-line mastery exams of readings and assignment.

Effective Winter Quarter 2007, completion of on-line course evaluation is a requirement of this course. Failure to comply will result in an “Incomplete” grade being assigned.

Course Expectations

To successfully meet the requirements of this course, the student must attend classes, read and master on-line materials, and participate in small group case discussions.

Competencies Addressed

UWSOD Competency 18: Practice dentistry within the ethical standards of the dental profession and the law.


  • Ethics in Dentistry: Case Studies in Ethical Decision Making (Syllabus), DPHS 531

*last updated: 11/7/2011