The social contract is an implicit agreement between parts of society and society as a whole. Since the Middle Ages, the learned professions, recently including dentistry, have had a covenantal relationship with the public based on trust, exchanging monopoly privileges for benefiting the public good. Unlike commercial trade in commodities, professional relationships are grounded in ensuring an adequate level of oral health to all. A second contract is emerging where dentists relate to society as business operators, exchanging commodity services for a price. Recent actions by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Supreme Court make it unlikely that dentistry will be able to enjoy only selected aspects of each contract while avoiding obligations that it finds unfavorable.

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Publication Date

Summer 2015

Notes/Citation Information

Published in the Journal of the American College of Dentists, v. 82, no. 3, p. 4-11.

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