Diagnostic Test Requests in the Family Medicine Consultation: An Ethical Perspective Concerning Requests for Maxillofacial Computerized Tomography Scan Prior to Dental Implants

Paulo Santos


In the Portuguese National Health Service, little attention has been paid to oral health care. The almost nonexistence of a dentistry network raises concern about accessibility to services, and justifies the need to call on a predominantly private provision of services. The coexistence between the public and private settings is not always easy, especially when services need to interact and actively collaborate in order to find answers to the patient’s problems. Dental implant procedures and the need to perform a previous maxillofacial computerized tomography to study the bone bed where osseointegrated dental implants are placed are a common situation. The current governmental regulation, blinded to the clinical context, may limit the accessibility to the tests. Based on this scenario, we discuss the possible options from an ethical point of view, framing the patient’s and the physician’s perspective and the relation between both.
We conclude that the medical decision can’t be disregarded from the clinical evaluation, in the intimacy of the medical consultation. This is an ethical duty that overrules the administrative and bureaucratic constraints. A good management of this apparent dichotomy may enhance better health and greater empowerment for the patient.


Dental Implants; Physician-Patient Relations; Practice Patterns, Physicians; Primary Health Care; Private Sector; Public Sector; Referral and Consultation; Tomography, X-Ray Computed

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