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Is It Ethical For A Dental Patient To Get A Cleaning Without An Exam?


All licensed professionals are taught about ethics, as ethical issues may sometimes come about in their professional lives. This is especially true in the dentistry field, where services are expensive and patients want to save as much money as possible.

While this is certainly understandable, this can also bring about ethical issues. For example, patients may want dental cleanings only, without an exam first. Is this an issue? Is it against the law?

Patients will often call a local dentist office and say they want to “schedule a cleaning.” However,  morally and ethically, new patients should be seen by a dentist before providing hygiene services so that it can be better understood what type of cleaning and other services the patient needs.

Dental care can be broken down into six stages:

  1. Assess the patient’s medical and dental history.
  2. Conduct a comprehensive oral exam and identify any oral health issues.
  3. Diagnose specific dental conditions.
  4. Create a personalized treatment plan
  5. Provide the recommended care, followed by evaluation to see if any adjustments need to be made.
  6. Document the encounter for reference and future care.

When dentists approach their work ethically, they ensure patients receive the highest standard of care. One ethical code is to do no harm, but providing a hygiene service that is not tailored to the patient can do more harm than good. When the dentist does not perform a comprehensive exam, they may miss underlying dental issues.

What the Law Says

The law can be confusing. Each state varies when it comes to requirements for a comprehensive exam by a dentist. Generally, a dentist can make decisions only about patients of record, which refers to someone who they have thoroughly examined and assessed. Many state dental boards have guidelines that emphasize that a comprehensive exam is needed before dental procedures such as cleanings can be performed

Florida is such a state. Florida Statutes, Chapter 466, Section 024, states that a dentist shall conduct a dental examination on a patient within 13 months after a dental hygienist removes the patient’s calculus deposits, accretions, and stains from exposed surfaces of the teeth or from tooth surfaces within the gingival sulcus. Additional oral hygiene services may not be performed without a clinical examination by a licensed dentist.

Keep Your License With Help From a Tampa Dentistry License Lawyer

Getting a dental exam and cleaning every year just makes good sense for a person’s health. While a patient may wish to decline an exam for financial reasons, the law does not allow it.

Dentists need to know the laws so they can stay ethical. While a patient’s finances can be concerning, they need to follow the law or else lose their license. If you have questions about maintaining your license, seek legal help from a Tampa dentistry license lawyer from The Law Offices of David P. Rankin, P.A. Fill out the online form or call (813) 968-6633 to schedule a consultation.