The Principle of Patient Autonomy in Dental Ethics

Dental EthicsThe dentist’s responsibility of informing the patient of contemporary levels of oral health and risks that could be experienced, should the patient refuse treatment, is paramount. Usually, many patients do not understand how much information should be relayed to them.

A list of diagnostic procedures and fees sometimes shock some patients. The complexity of the methods and their costs may cause the patient to leave the clinic before any service is offered.  Although this is an ethical dilemma for the dentist, they should allow the patient to make firm decisions concerning the procedure.


Depending on the culture of the patient, autonomy may have a different meaning. In some cultures, the principle behind consent is ethical. The policy requires the patient to make independent dentistry decisions. In other societies, personal autonomy may be greatly influenced by the family.

Free Will

The need to make independent decisions without coercion is another feature of ethical autonomy. Coercion may be subtle or overt. The patient’s values and code of conduct are what influences their reaction to any medical situation. The decision a patient makes may also be affected by the treatment and procedural options available.


This principal is based on the ground that a patient should make personal decisions. However, there are situations where a patient has no ability to make such choices. Some of these situations include mental incapacity, drug and alcohol influence, trauma and other temporary limitations.

In such cases, the procedure performed must fall under a spectrum of acceptable dentistry options. Any patient who lacks full capacity cannot consent to complicated dentistry procedures or the administration of a general anaesthetic.

Ethics are very complicated concepts to define. This is because they are viewed very differently by varying entities. Dental professionals such as are confronted with critical choices that require careful deliberation for the well-being of the patient.

This principle gives freedom to patients and encourages them to define what should be done pertaining to their oral health. Since they are moral entities, they have rights to autonomous decisions.