A dentist is a doctor specializing in oral health after going through extensive and rigorous training. Therefore, just like all types of doctors who take the Hippocratic Oath (a pledge to uphold specific ethical standards) , dentists must also agree to abide by a Code of Ethics which prioritizes the safety and interests of patients.
Forms of the oath vary between different schools and countries. But they all aim to encapsulate the important principles which are an integral part of medical training.
Code of Ethics - Broad Principles
- Be honest and impartial in serving patients, the public, the profession.
- Strive to increase personal competence and the esteem in which the profession is held.
- Use knowledge and skill to improve the health and well-being of patients and the public.
- Respect the dignity, professional status of, and professional relationships with fellow dentists and other health care providers.
Here is just one elegent version:
Hippocratic Oath for Dentistry
I swear to fulfil, to the best of my ability and judgement, this covenant:
- I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those dental professionals in whose
steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to
- I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding
those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
- I will remember that there is art to dentistry as well as science, and that warmth,
sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's
- I will not be ashamed to say "I know not"; nor will I fail to call in my colleagues
when the skills of another are needed for a patient's well being.
- I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to
me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of
life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within
my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great
humility and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.
- I will remember that I do not treat a decayed tooth or a cancerous growth, but a
sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic
stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care
adequately for the sick.
- I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
- I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all
my fellow human beings those sound of mind and body, as well as the infirm.
- If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and
remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the
finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.
Based on: The Hippocratic Oath: Text, Translation, and Interpretation, by Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1943.
Modified for use by dentists by Professor Lakshman Samaranayake.
© 2010 Faculty of Dentistry, The University of Hong Kong