Is it okay for dentists to not tell a patient everything wrong?

An interesting article titled “Is it unethical to not present a patient’s treatment plan in its entirety?” is written by Emily Ishkanian and appears in the June 2016 issue of JADA. The article discusses that a dentist gets a new patient in for only an examination, cleaning, and radiographs. However after the exam, the dentist determined that the patient has extensive treatment needs. The dentist is concerned that if they tell the patient everything wrong then the patient will be scared to return to the office.

The patient went to the dentist for just a standard visit. It is likely they thought there was nothing wrong with their oral health. The dentist is concerned that the patient will suspect overtreatment which could lead them to decline the treatment plan or seek another opinion.

The ADA code says that dentists need to be truthful and straightforward with their patients. The article states

“The dentist should inform the patient of his or her oral health status by disclosing a treatment plan that addresses the patient’s needs in addition to presenting alternative treatment or treatments…Although a patient may find an extensive plan to be daunting, the dentist has an obligation to educate the patient about how to best prioritize the treatment plan through phasing and sequencing.”

The article says that as a dentist you must tell your patients of their oral health status but it is up to them to decide which course of treatment best satisfies their goals. It is important that a dentist is truthful and that the patient leaves the office with all the information about their health status. If the dentist only tells the patient half of what is wrong than this is misleading to the patient and unethical.

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