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Ethics Involving COVID Vaccines In Dental Practices


Dentists work closely with patients—in their mouths, to be exact. Because of this, those in the dentistry field have to take precautions to ensure they don’t get anything from a contagious patient.

This is especially tricky in the age of COVID and can bring about ethical issues for dentists. Can they require COVID vaccinations for patients? What if a patient is unvaccinated? Can a dentist practice deny care?

The American Dental Association (ADA) allows dentists to deny care to unvaccinated patients, but requires ethical guidelines for doing so. For example, there must be informed consent involved. A dental practice can ask that patients be current on their vaccines. However, if this is a requirement, patients should be made aware during the informed consent process and even the initial intake process. Because not all patients will comply, this allows those who are uncomfortable with the requirement to look for a different dentist who does not have this requirement.

However, denying patients can be seen as unethical. It does not “protect a patient from harm” because the dentist is refusing to treat a patient’s oral health needs. Not treating a dental issue can definitely result in additional harm, such as gum and tooth issues. A patient may get a serious infection that necessitates tooth extraction.

Denying a patient care because they are unwilling or unable to get a COVID vaccine is an ethical concern, especially since dentist’s offices can successfully mitigate the risks by putting precautions in place. For example, all offices should have masks, gloves, gowns, shields, and surgical caps in place. These items are highly effective in preventing COVID infection, with many offices having zero outbreaks in the past two years.

In fact, if a dentist does choose not to treat unvaccinated patients, they can take some actions to avoid patient abandonment. One example is that they can give the patient adequate notice instead of suddenly ceasing treatment. This gives the patient time to find another dentist.

If the dentist does not have a vaccine requirement, then they should inform patients of what will happen should they become exposed to COVID while receiving dental care. For example, patients should be made aware as soon as possible if they may have been exposed to infectious material while in the office. An evaluation and follow-up should be required to determine the extent of the exposure.

Keep Your License With Help From a Tampa Dentistry License Lawyer

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the atmosphere of medical practices. Since dentists work closely with patients, it is understandable that they may require patients to be vaccinated in order to protect employees and other patients. However, ethics are a concern.

Tampa dentistry license lawyer David P. Rankin can help you deal with ethical issues in the dental industry. Schedule a consultation today to help you resolve these issues and keep your license. Fill out the online form or call (813) 968-6633.