How Dentistry Should Approach Its Problems: A Vote for Professionalism
Rule, James T
The Journal of the American College of Dentists 2010 Winter; 77(4): 59-67
Dentistry, like all professions, has always had ethical problems to contend with, including societal trust, flagrant advertising, commercialism, and access to care. Although the profession's interest and expertise in ethics has grown enormously in the last three decades, the issues facing dentistry have not really decreased, and perhaps have grown more problematic. Thus, despite the invaluable contributions of ethical progress to the structure and function of our profession, this paper argues that reflective ethics by itself appears unable to exact change. For change to occur, dentistry also needs a broad-based display of enlightened, and ethically-driven but action-oriented professionalism. This existed in the 1830s when U.S. dentistry was in its early stages of becoming thought of as a profession. Using the lessons learned from that period of our history, we need to do the same thing now--not excluding ethics, but working hand in glove with ethics. This paper suggests that, as in the 1830s, dentistry now needs the grassroots attention of its membership. Using recent publications about the importance of "connectedness" in dentistry, guidelines are presented that provide a framework for approaching the problems faced by dentistry and contributing to a more satisfying professional career.
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