The dental prosthetic has the role of helping the dentist restore the patient’s masticatory and aesthetic capacity through dental surgeries. Among these surgeries, tooth replacement is the commonest and is typically carried out by individuals who make the prosthesis (Ozar, Sokol, and Patthoff, 2018). The current high demand for oral aesthetics makes dental prosthesis services increasingly required. In Australia, dental prosthetists are regulated by practice law, which addresses the competence of technicians and limitations imposed on aspects that refer to professional practice. The technician’s work as a dental prosthetist requires agility to produce parts such as dentures with specific techniques. As the need for facial and masticatory aesthetics continue to soar due to digitization, it would be essential to identify the scope, ethics, professionalism, and regulatory standards that govern the dental practice and the involved professionals.
Dental prosthetists’ scope ranges from rectifying broken dentures to fixing removable mouthguards. Dental prosthetist professionals are responsible for developing dentures, crowns, and movable bridges (Thomas et al., 2018). To train as a prosthetist, one is required to study for a minimum of two years. The course is divided into three modules and offers activities contributing to learning and developing skills. In the case of facial aesthetics studies or problem posing, it is always essential to establish different contacts with companies and specialists in dentistry. As a dental prosthetist, working in a laboratory environment and in educational institutions, teaching classes for specific groups and public lectures on the subject is possible. Thomas et al. (2018) indicate that at the beginning of the current decade, 20,000 professionals were working in 7,000 laboratories. Since then, the demand for this profession throughout the Australian territory has only increased.
The current legislation does not allow technicians to maintain direct contact with patients and prohibits the advertisement of professional services to the lay public. Molding and manipulating parts such as crowns and movable bridges, among others, are part of the routine work for dental technicians equipped with specialized techniques (Thomas et al., 2018). These individuals perform various activities in the laboratory environment, including dental waxing and sculpting, the manufacture of complete, fixed, and flexible metal-ceramic, and dental whitening and bruxism plate fixation (Thomas et al., 2018). Moreover, the regulatory agency, this professional is prohibited from providing direct or indirect assistance to patients without the supervision of a dentist. Additionally, they are barred from keeping equipment and instruments specific to professionals in the dental office and performing any procedure in the patient’s oral cavity.
Since dentistry falls in the human health category, dental prosthetists need to adhere to the fundamental principles of medical ethics. Ethics in dentistry is crucial for the dentist to perform the profession in a beneficial way for both patients and society. Patient’s perception of the conduct of dentists will often result in an ethical judgment since it concerns the function of these professionals as promoters of health and well-being (Newbrun, 2007). Nevertheless, the application of ethics in dentistry stems from the nature of dentists’ work, which involves dealing with the patient, meaning these professionals have to adhere to moral guidelines and values controlling their actions. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that the ethical and legal rules of the activity are met (Newbrun, 2007). Generally, ethics in dentistry is essential to prevent dentists from committing ethical violations that could result in future harm to the patient and the professional.
By following the ethical guidelines stipulated by the Australian Dentistry Association (ADA), the dentist helps to ensure the good image and prestige of the profession. The dentist must demand the appropriate conditions to conduct treatments ethically without omitting information about the possible risks involved in specific procedures. On the other hand, a dentist should never perform unnecessary treatments for which he is not qualified. It is also necessary that the medical records comply with the governing rules to facilitate the updating and interpretation by colleagues in the profession (Bruscino, 2012). The Dental Ethics Code regulates the rights and duties of the dentist, technical and auxiliary professionals, and legal entities that carry out activities in the area of dentistry. Unequivocally, dentistry is a profession exercised to benefit the health of the human being, the community, and the environment, without discrimination in any way or pretext.
It is the dental professionals’ role, as members of the health team, to direct actions aimed at satisfying the population’s health needs and defending the principles of public health and environmental policies (Bruscino, 2012). In such a way, they guarantee universal access to health services, the integrality of health care, preservation of the autonomy of individuals, community participation, hierarchy, and political-administrative decentralization of health services (Bruscino, 2012). Moreover, dentists need to respect the patient’s freedom to allow them to make decisions. Therefore, dentists must consult patients before performing any healthcare procedure or treatment. In addition to consultancy, they must uphold the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence, which requires professionals to acquire rigorous education and professional practice before handling patients (Bruscino, 2012). Further, dentists and dental prosthetists should execute justice to their patients by respecting their rights and acceptable moral laws. Generally, this ensures they respect patients’ health information confidentiality and conduct fair treatments.
Professional conduct is vital for dental prosthetists to deliver quality, evidence-based patient care. Professionalism has historically focused on dentists’ standards, beliefs, and behavior during their daily practice in Europe (Zijlstra‐Shaw et al., 2012). Over the last 25 years, professionalism has become an increasingly significant component of the medical field and dentistry (Zijlstra‐Shaw et al., 2012). It is believed to be the result of extensive societal changes, such as media attention to health care and alterations in the methods, practices, and values of patient care (Lambden, 2002). Professionalism needs to be upheld in dentistry regarding teamwork and changes to regulatory bodies resulting from governmental pressures (Zijlstra‐Shaw et al., 2012). These pressures promote error-free treatment of patients, exempting them from possible risks that might propagate their conditions. Generally, the emphasis on dentistry education has grown, and professionalism is now a key component of both undergraduate and graduate courses.
Dental prosthetists should operate within the bounds of their profession by exercising their discipline safely and effectively, prioritizing the standard of patient care, and adhering to all laws and procedures. It would be unethical for the professional to argue with the patient, especially during the healthcare procedure. Additionally, it is critical to respect the patient’s dignity and maintain the privacy of their personal information (Zijlstra‐Shaw et al., 2012). Working well with other dental team members is critical to maintaining proper limits in patient interactions. All dental practitioners must adhere to new standards that the ADA has devised.
The organization where a dentist and dental prosthetists work sets guidelines relating to dental professionals’ ethics and performance and behavior requirements. These healthcare firms outline the values, norms, and instructions that apply to every member of the dental team as well as what patients can anticipate from their dental experts. All dental team members must adhere to nine standards to provide quality patient care (Zijlstra‐Shaw et al., 2012). First, the patient’s best interests should be prioritized, ensure effective communication with patients, and obtain valid patient consent. Additionally, maintain and protect patients’ information, get a clear and effective complaints procedure, and collaborate with coworkers in a way that is in the patient’s best interests (Lambden, 2002). Further, the prosthetists should work within their professional knowledge and abilities, express concerns if patients are in danger, and ensure that their conduct upholds patients’ trust in them and dental professionals.
Dental prosthetists have a responsibility to safeguard both patient safety and public safety. Suppose a dental prosthetist sees a patient being mistreated or notices that someone’s behavior is endangering patients or another staff member. They have a professional obligation to speak out (Ozar, Sokol, and Patthoff, 2018). To ensure patient anonymity, the staff member should respond right away. Dental prosthetists must keep an accurate record of any concerns and the steps taken to address them. Dental prosthetists should raise their concerns internally while maintaining a clear written record of them following the workplace’s whistleblower policy or local safeguarding procedures (Ozar, Sokol, and Patthoff, 2018). Their decision could prevent someone from experiencing more abuse or result in a life-altering experience.
Professionalism in dentistry is essential in creating better and quality patient care. One of the vital contributions of professionalism in dentistry is building patient trust. When dental prosthetists portray professionalism during the execution of their tasks, the patient entrusts them with their health, which results in a successful dentist-patient relationship. Additionally, the trust created by adhering to professionalism allows the patient to accept recommendations from the prosthetist and the dentist more quickly than when the expertise was violated (Brennan, Brennam, and Oliver, 2006). Generally, professionalism is crucial in creating trust among patients, which usually translates to better care.
The Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council approves the National Board’s creation of registration standards. The organization has established the prerequisites applicants, registrants, and students must meet to register and keep their registration (Brennan, Brennam, and Oliver, 2006). The National Board creates guidelines to support the profession and help clarify what the National Board expects on various topics, such as the requirements of registration criteria. The National Board’s Scope of practice registration standard and associated subjects are covered in further detail in these recommendations (Brennan, Brennam, and Oliver, 2006). The registration standard should be read along with these regulations. Additionally, these guidelines establish the scope of practice for all licensed dental practitioners. Dental professionals must only work within their education, training, and competence and exercise sound professional judgment when determining their and other colleagues’ scope of practice (Holden et al., 2018). Additionally, the registration guidelines for dentists in Australia apply to conscious sedation and general anesthesia works. The stipulated standards ensure that the depression of patients’ consciousness is executed only when appropriate. Ultimately, it provides every dentist is accountable for their choices, treatments, and recommendations.
Registered dental practitioners are only permitted to practice the dental operations within each category for which they have received the necessary education and training through National Board-approved study programs. Programs of study authorized by the National Board for the Registration Standard and Recommendations include the Under National Law (Holden et al., 2018). Accepted programs of study must be accredited by the professional accreditation body and approved by the National Board (Holden et al., 2018). The programs have been approved for dental practitioners who have completed their studies. Moreover, other assessments, examinations, and qualifications enable dental practitioners for general registration, specialist registration, limited registration with the Board, or endorsement. Some of the initiatives required for the dental practitioner to broaden scope largely depend on educational programs that the National Board has evaluated and authorized. These programs expand a dental practitioner’s scope of practice (The Australian Dental Association, n. d.). The broad coverage programs cover various competencies that enable dental professionals to deepen their knowledge, expertise, and competence in specific fields and within the registered division.
Dental prosthetists, like any other medical and dental practitioner, must uphold the professional code of ethics. The ADA defines that their education should take a minimum of two years to obtain critical educational requirements. Moreover, these professionals should take several assessments, examinations, and qualifications to qualify for registration standards outlined by the National Board approved by the ADA. Completing their studies is the initial lead to registration as a dental practitioner in the Australian territories. In their professional practice, dental prosthetists should uphold ethical considerations. These considerations include practicing autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence. These ethical principles enable dental practitioners to provide their patients with quality and evidence-based dental and oral health. They allow the practitioners to uphold patients’ data safety and confidentiality and promote patients to make decisions. Moreover, they enable dental practitioners to conduct treatment with the patient’s consent. Therefore, a code of ethics is essential to define dental professionalism among dental prosthetists.
Brennan, M., Brennam, M.G. and Oliver, R.G. (2006) Ethics and law for the dental team. Cheshire: PasTest Ltd.
Bruscino, T. (2012) ‘Basic ethics in dentistry’, The Academy of Dental Learning & OSHA Training, pp. 16–25.
Holden, A. C. L., Jean, G., Tennant, M., & Spallek, H. (2018) Professionalism by proxy: a case for the formal regulation of dental assistants in Australia’, British Dental Journal, 225(6), 482-486.
Lambden, P. (2002) Dental law and ethics. Oxford: Radcliffe Medical Press.
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Ozar, D.T., Sokol, D.J. and Patthoff, D.E. (2018) Dental ethics at chairside: professional obligations and practical applications. Washington: Georgetown University Press.
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Ziilstra‐Shaw, S., Robinson, P. G., & Roberts, T. (2012) ‘Assessing professionalism within dental education; the need for a definition’, European Journal of Dental Education, 16(1), 128-136.