Maintaining Professional Boundaries

The RDH/client relationship is centred on trust, respect and confidence. Dental Hygienists are responsible for maintaining a professional relationship with their clients, and for taking steps to avoid blurring or crossing boundaries. Establishing and maintaining clear and firm boundaries with clients is essential to avoid conduct that could be perceived as unprofessional, unethical or even sexual.

Boundaries are unique to each client and influenced by factors like their personal experiences, cultural expectations, age and values. What one client may see as welcome and appropriate, another may see as the opposite. Here are ways you can help maintain appropriate relationships with your clients:

  • Use a tone that is professional and respectful, but that displays caring and empathy.
  • Be mindful of a client’s verbal and non-verbal signals that they may be uncomfortable with your words or behaviour and modify your actions accordingly.
  • Avoid commenting on or engaging in conversations with clients about topics that may be controversial or offensive.
  • Be cautious in sharing personal information with or seeking personal information from clients unrelated to their clinical needs.
  • If you need to touch a client, obtain their consent.
  • Never rest instruments or other materials on a client’s chest or elsewhere on their body.
  • Recognize cultural diversity and seek opportunities to learn about cultural attitudes and behaviours.
  • Never exhibit behaviour or employ gestures, expressions or comments of a sexual nature, including sexual humour or innuendo.

For more information, view the Guideline: Prevention of Sexual Abuse and Maintenance of Professional Boundaries and the Registrants’ Handbook.