- Dental

What Ethical Issues Arise When Dentists Provide Care For Older People?

The older generation has the worst oral health in society, but incentivizing unnecessary procedures could lead to a rise in unethical behavior, reducing access for those in dire need of help. The oral health of the older generation is worse today than it was 20 years ago. Considering the amount of money people are spending on oral health, this might seem to be not only unethical but also a severe social problem.

  • Informed Consent

Older adults need to make informed consent when they visit a dentist. However, there is a possibility of abuse in some cases due inability to make a sound judgment. There are no fixed rules; hence those treating the patient and making those critical decisions must be conscious of their rights and responsibilities against the background of their individual best interests. For example, it requires high standards of ethics to be a dentist in a suburb like Grange in Brisbane which has a lot of older residents who need dental treatment.

When older adults enter the stage of senility, their dentists are likely to make decisions on their behalf, which may cause an ethical dilemma. So it usually falls on the dentist to detect issues that they need to treat to avoid further damage to the teeth or gums. Each case is different, but moral bioethicists look into problems that may arise when treating older adults

  • Autonomy

There are some dental ethical principles that the patient needs to know, such as autonomy. The dentist asks the patients or their guardians about their permission to be treated. The patient’s guardian must ask for permission from the patient if they require treatment because of dental caries, pyorrhea, and other diseases. The information gives insights on three of the most primary dental ethical issues: accountability, voluntariness, and informed consent.

Seniors who are experiencing cognitive decline need extra support when making medical decisions. Social workers and other professionals should be available for this purpose to prevent torture. However, in some cases, some dentists may take advantage of the older adults and undertake expensive and unnecessary procedures without their consent.

  • Respect For Older Adults

Dental ethics depend on the fundamental principles of morality, respect for persons, and principles of beneficence. The most basic code of dental ethics is respect for persons. Respect for older adults is also essential, with regard for their autonomy and dignity. The focus needs to be on the patient rather than the dental surgeon, whose personal needs or other conflicts can interfere with an objective conclusion or treatment plan.

For the dentist’s ethical considerations to be valid, they should not be limited to a particular cultural background but should belong to a universal moral code. However, some dentists lack dental ethics and are likely to behave in a manner that may suggest a lack of moral principle and respect towards their patients. These people deserve special dental care and respect. You should treat them like kings and queens even if they cannot pay for it.

  • Provision of Sufficient Information To The Older Adults

Oral health is highly dependent on access to information and education for older people. Providing accurate information is a critical factor in ensuring respect for older people’s preferences and autonomy within the dental care processes.

The dental ethical issues are complex and nuanced. They are primarily due to the importance of informed consent. One of the main aspects of providing sufficient and accurate information is to ensure that patients understand what they are committing. Also, the provision of necessary options is crucial. For example, a root canal treatment can improve overall bodily health, but dental insurance often does not cover it. Hence it’s essential to discuss with the patient immediately about the terms of payment. Lack of insurance coverage for a root canal may leave older adults treating themselves or avoiding professional care.

  • Confdentiality

The need for confidentiality is a fundamental principle of the relationship between a patient and a dental practitioner. Confidentiality is an essential part of informed consent in being able to trust your dentist. Confidentiality is a critical factor in dentistry because the dentist will get a lot of information about the patient. 

Older people are much more likely to have suffered mental illness, which carries a considerable stigma. If dental healthcare professionals leak confidential information that could result in discrimination against a patient, they may be breaching an ethical duty to protect a patient’s confidentiality. However, some professionals are not keen enough to adhere to this virtue. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure your loved ones choose dental healthcare professionals who strictly follow ethical principles.


Reduced scope of practice, reduced access, and increased costs for denture services must be part of the planned dental reforms to deal with the dental ethical issues. We should see fewer “for-profit” denture organizations, fewer denture remounts and remakings, better remount programs, and a strengthened inclusion of remineralization therapy in all supporting denture services. The ethical dimension plays a significant role in dentistry. The extent of this role often varies from person to person. Dental ethical issues may lead to doubt, indecision, and fear of making a decision. Thus, it is essential to analyze the ethical dimension in dentistry as a critical part of professional skills.