Consumer-driven and commercialised practice in dentistry: an ethical and professional problem?
The rise and persistence of a commercial model of healthcare and the potential shift towards the commodification of dental services, provided to consumers, should provoke thought about the nature and purpose of dentistry and whether this paradigm is cause for concern. Within this article, whether dentistry is a commodity and the legitimacy of dentistry as a business is explored and assessed. Dentistry is perceived to be a commodity, dependent upon the context of how services are to be provided and the interpretation of the patient–professional relationship. Commercially-focused practices threaten the fiduciary nature of the interaction between consumer and provider. The solution to managing commercial elements within dentistry is not through rejection of the new paradigm of the consumer of dental services, but in the rejection of competitive practices, coercive advertising and the erosion of professional values and duty. Consumerism may bring empowerment to those accessing dental services. However, if the patient–practitioner relationship is reduced to a mere transaction in the name of enhanced consumer participation, this empowerment is but a myth.