Male dentist smiling in practice
  • Principles of professionalism  

Principle 1: Treat patients with respect

Treat your patients with dignity and support them to make informed decisions about their care. 

Principle 2: Practise safely and effectively

Ensure you use your knowledge and skills to provide the right outcome for your patients, keep up to date, and speak up to protect others. 

Principle 3: Maintain trust in the profession 

Act with integrity and ensure your actions maintain the trust of colleagues, patients, and the public.

Principle 4: Work in partnership with others 

Work with colleagues to ensure an effective and supportive environment in which the safety and wellbeing of the patient and dental team is protected.

In this model there are four principles that capture the essential components of professionalism. These principles were developed by reflecting on our research on professionalism in dentistry and analysing the content of the Standards for the Dental Team. We identified four overarching themes, which were then refined by engagement with professionals, patients and in discussion with our Council.  

A model grounded in principles represents a different approach to setting standards and guidance that we think could better support dental professionals to use their professional judgement, by providing the flexibility to allow them to take into account the context of situations they encounter in practice.  

We believe that the principles need to be concise and memorable to make them easy to embed in a dental professional’s education and practise and engaging for patients and the public. 

Each principle is explained by a short supporting statement which links to aspects of professional activity. 

Framework of Professionalism 

We expect that dental professionals may need further information to take these principles and apply them in practice. There are also areas that represent a risk to patients and the public if guidance is not followed. In this model, we suggest that the principles sit within a framework that provides dental professionals with formal guidance in some areas, but is agile enough to provide supporting information where a need is identified. 

These principles are situated within a Framework for Professionalism that includes;

Core elements professionals must follow:

  • Principles of Professionalism that succinctly articulate the standards of conduct, performance, and practice expected of dental professionals. 
  • Guidance on specific matters which provides detail regarding what we expect professionals to do in these areas. 

Additional content to support professionals would sit alongside the principles and guidance to encourage professional decision making and learning

  • Illustrative examples that demonstrate how the principles apply in different contexts and would assist dental professionals in using the principles in their decision making.  
  • Supporting materials that provide further scenarios of applying the principles in contexts through mediums such as blogs, infographics, videos, and case studies. This may include important topics and emerging issues across dentistry.   

Dentistry is a complex and ever evolving landscape, and we do not suggest that the GDC will always be the right organisation to provide guidance to dental professionals in all areas. The model framework is just one of the tools that dental professionals will need to support their practise, and we will work with others to signpost to that information where others are best placed to provide it.

Using the framework for professionalism

Using this model, professionals would consider the principles to inform their judgement when making decisions about how to achieve the right outcome for patients based on individual circumstances and context, rather than following prescriptive rules. The flexibility of this approach is designed to ensure that it is the patient that is at the heart of these decisions, informed by a dental professional’s experience and not limited by a fear of breaching ‘rules’ which may hinder a professional’s ability to provide the best care in a given situation. 

The agility of this approach, and the inclusion of supporting materials, should be better at supporting professionals to apply standards and guidance to real life situations, as compared to our current rules-based framework.  

However, the purpose of explaining this example framework for professional decision-making and standards is to encourage debate about the best way to provide standards and guidance, and we welcome alternative ideas on how to do this.