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Dental School Interviews: Ethical Questions & Model Answers

Advice & Insight From Dentistry Interview Specialists

​Ethical Scenario 1

Your nurse has been working alongside you for 15 years and is very experienced in assisting with procedures. She asks you if she can scale her colleague’s teeth during her lunch break. How would you respond?

​Average Candidate Response

  • I would advise that unfortunately she is not suitably qualified to carry out scaling, and as such it would not be safe for her to do so.
  • If she insisted on carrying this out, I would consider escalating the matter accordingly

Excellent Candidate Response
  • You would explain that scaling is out of her professional remit and skill set and she is not allowed to scale her colleague’s teeth. This is irrespective of the number of years of nursing training that she has
  • She does not have the necessary qualifications to perform scaling
  • Explore the reasons as to why she wishes to carry out this treatment
  • Encourage her to gain the necessary qualifications to do so if this is a long-term ambition of hers.
  • Alternatively, offer to carry out the procedure should the relevant person be a patient at the practice
  • If you find she does so secretly, you should inform the practice manager to ensure patient safety.

​Ethical Scenario 2

A patient attends your practice and is highly anxious. They demand sedation for the check- up. How would you manage this situation?

​Average Candidate Response
  • If sedation was indicated, this would not be an issue. However, if sedation was not indicated – it would be important to explain to the patient that the check up cannot be conducted with sedation

Excellent Candidate Response

  • It would be important to speak to the patient and discuss all possible options before attempting treatment
  • It is essential that you gain consent from the patient before doing anything
  • If the patient demands sedation, you cannot perform treatment without it unless the patient consents.
  • Explain (if you don’t/cannot offer sedation) that if the patient won’t accept treatment without it, you will need to refer him or her to a sedation clinic and if they fulfil their criteria, they will treat them under sedation.
  • You should explain the risks and benefits of sedation and all possible options available such that the patient can make an informed decision.
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Ethical Scenario 3

A patient attends your practice and comes with a friend acting as a translator. On explaining the procedure, you don’t feel that the translator is conveying all the details to the patient. How will you manage the situation?

​Average Candidate Response
  • I would consider if there was an alternative translator available immediately; in the event that this was not possible, I would re-arrange the appointment with an official translator

Excellent Candidate Response

  • If you feel the patient isn’t receiving all the information, you can request the translator to ensure they are translating all details and not leaving anything out such that the patient is aware of everything before giving informed consent.
  • If you still feel the details aren’t being portrayed accurately, you can request for a professional translator to be brought in at the next appointment prior to commencing treatment.
  • It is essential the patient is aware of everything prior to carrying out the procedure, otherwise their consent may be invalid. 

Ethical Scenario 4

A child attends with trauma to the front tooth. They attend with their father who reports that the child fell down in school. You notice on the routine exam that the child also has other bruises in uncommon areas. 

Average Candidate Response

  • In this case, I would explore where the additional bruises may have come from in endeavouring to establish if there is a plausible explanation; if there is, I would address the dental concern. If the explanation regarding the bruises was not satisfactory, I would consider taking further action.

Excellent Candidate Response
  • This is likely a safeguarding issue
  • If you feel concerned, the safeguarding lead must be informed
  • You must make accurate and full, comprehensive notes of everything that you noted on the exam.
  • Do not discuss further with the parents or probe them if you feel this will put the patient/child in further danger
  • The safeguarding lead will explore further and inform social services if deemed necessary. 
  • ​If after reviewing the child, you feel that the child is at imminent risk of further harm, it would be recommended to speak with the safeguarding lead immediately regarding whether external authority (eg. police) involvement immediately is required to safeguard the child

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Ethical Scenario 5

The receptionist receives a phone call; it’s from the wife of a patient asking if her husband had registered at the dental practice and when his next appointment is. The waiting room is full. The receptionist responds to the caller, confirming his details over the phone and that his appointment is on Friday at 2pm. Which ethical issues arise here?

Average Candidate Response
  • The receptionist should not be disclosing confidential information without consent; it would be important to address this with the receptionist to ensure that this does not happen again in the future.

Excellent Candidate Response

  • The receptionist is part of the dental team and all members must maintain patient confidentiality and protect their details (4th GDC standard).
  • The receptionist should not confirm the husband’s appointment with anyone but the person in question or unless he himself has given consent to inform someone else and their identity also confirmed.
  • The receptionist must not repeat patient details over the phone especially in a full waiting room.
  • These errors are a breach of patient trust and confidentiality; duty of candour should be considered in ensuring that corrective measures are taken as well as the affected parties (patient) being appropriately informed of the shortcomings. 

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Dental School Interviews: Ethical Questions & Model Answers

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