Published on 30th November 2016 by lauram

During your dentistry interview you may be asked to discuss an ethical scenario. Although it may seem like a daunting task, this page will guide you through how to approach these questions as well as giving you some examples of questions you may encounter.

How should I approach Dentistry Ethical Scenarios?

Start by outlining and defining the issue you are being asked about. For example, if you are asked about a patient with dental decay who refuses to use fluoride toothpaste you could discuss what your understanding is of both dental decay and the use of fluoride. After elaborating on the scenario you could then tackle the question by applying the four pillars of Medical Ethics which applies to dentistry as well.

  1. Autonomy – This is a patient’s right to make their own decisions towards their healthcare. In this case it is respecting that the patient has a right not to use fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Non-maleficence – This means that any action the dentist carries out must not harm the patient. Harm could be caused to the patient if they do not use fluoride toothpaste as they may continue to get dental decay, impacting their oral health. However, additionally, by being forced to use fluoride toothpaste they could experience psychological harm if they strongly believe that it has negative effects on their health.  
  3. Justice – The dentist should consider if their actions could have any consequences on the wider community. For example, in this instance if the dentist did not explain the evidence behind fluoride being safe to use in the concentrations found in toothpaste, the patient could go on to influence other members of the public.
  4. Beneficence – Any action taken by the dentist should benefit the patient. This could be through decreasing the chances of dental decay by getting the patient to use a fluoride toothpaste or by allowing them to make their own choice and continuing to use a fluoride free toothpaste.

Dentistry Ethical Scenarios: Top Tips and Advice

Your interviewers want to see how you are able to tackle tricky Ethical Scenario questions on the spot.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to ethical scenario questions. The interviewers want to see that you are able to tackle these types of questions on the spot, that you have understood the complexity of the issue and weighed up both sides of the argument, as well as examined the scenario from different perspectives. Approach the question in a logical manner and make sure that your discussion flows so that it is easy for the interviewer to follow.

What are the common mistakes candidates make in an interview?

Answering the question with an overly simplistic answer suggests that you have not understood the complexity of the issue. Additionally, having an overly emotive, one-sided response shows that you have not considered both sides of the argument. Commonly, candidates jump from one thought to another causing their answer to be incoherent and lack structure – so make sure you’re prepared to talk about both sides of an ethical scenario. 

How should an Ethical Scenario question be concluded?

The best way to conclude your answer is with a balanced conclusion that appreciates the complexity of the issue presented. For example, in this case, you may conclude “although the patient has the right to choose whether or not to use fluoride toothpaste, I believe that the dentist should discuss with them the benefits of using fluoride toothpaste to prevent further dental decay”. Further understanding could be shown by adding, “the dentist should ask why they do not want to use fluoride toothpaste and discuss the clinical evidence that indicates that fluoride at a controlled concentration is safe to use”.  

What kinds of Ethical Scenario questions may I be asked in a Dentistry interview?

  • A 25 year old woman comes to your dental practice because she is unhappy with the appearance of her teeth as she feels they look crooked. On examination, there is no clinical indication that she needs braces so she does not fit the criteria for braces on the NHS. The woman explains to you that her teeth make her very self-conscious and is causing her to feel depressed. Do you think this woman should be given braces on the NHS?
  • A patient with dental anxiety comes into your practice. They are refusing to have a dental check-up without sedation. Discuss how you would manage this patient.
  • A five year old patient comes in with severe dental decay and requires several teeth to be extracted. On speaking to the child’s mother they refuse to give consent for the child’s teeth to be extracted and do not believe that the child has any dental decay. Discuss how you would deal with this situation.

Words: Joelle


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