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  • Janice Janssen, RDH, CFE

Ethics and the Dental Office - Creating a Culture

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

Do you follow the rules?

Do you consider yourself ethical?

These are great questions, and things that people don’t really think about on a regular basis. The thing is, many of us are ethical and follow the rules…or at least we follow most of the rules. And I am not going to say that because you drive over the speed limit or you occasionally yell at the referee, that you are not an ethical person. What I really want you to think about is what it means to be ethical.

Let’s first define ethics. The dictionary defines ethics as moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. It is essentially your “moral code”. Many times, we hear ethics and compliance combined. The difference is that compliance is following the law to ensure you are doing right. Ethics is doing what is right regardless of the law. There are not necessarily a set or rules or laws with ethics. It is doing what’s right even if you aren’t required to do so or shall we say when no one is looking.

We talk a lot about compliance in the dental office. There are many compliance issues we MUST follow to properly care for our patients. We are required to follow OSHA and HIPAA guidelines to start and the list just goes on from there. Some ethics you may think of are those that say to “do good” or “do no harm”. These are also very important for our patients but may not be required by law. An example of ethics for your patients would be providing a second opinion or showing respect for all of your patients...even the ones that drive you crazy.

I recently attended an Association of Certified Fraud Examiners conference in Fort Worth where the speaker, Weston Smith spoke about ethics. Something he said really resonated with me. His comment was that he does not like the saying, “business ethics”, “if you have ethics in life, you have ethics in business”. It is all about how you live your life, and that will trickle in to your business life as well.

It is important to have ethics with our patients, but it is also important to be ethical at all times in your life, with your patients, with your family and with your team. If you are willing to cheat a little here or there, your team sees that and may think it is okay for them to cheat a little bit too. The actions or inactions we take have a significant impact on the standards for your practice and way of doing business. Do not rationalize unethical behavior because “other people are doing it”, you know what is right and wrong. If you do what’s right, your team will do what’s right.

You must set the example. Yes, I am talking to you…whether you are the owner, dentist, assistant, hygienist, admin team, it doesn’t matter. We all have to set the standard for exceptional ethics in our practices. If you are reading this article you care about your job, about your profession, and that means that you are a leader whether you know it or not. Set the example for your team! You are not going to be perfect, none of us are, but do the best you can do to set the ethical standard.

Janice can be reached at:

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