The level of prescribing that occurs in the average dental practice is not usually such that it attracts the attention of pharmaceutical companies' marketing departments. However, we are large consumers of restorative materials, medicaments and other products. We rely on a good working relationship with dental supply companies who not only offer access to these products, but are also often involved in research related to them. It is most likely that dentists are not aware of the influence that advertising, 'special offers', personal visits by company representatives, endorsements and trade shows have on our purchasing habits.

What dental practitioners purchase or prescribe should always be done on the basis of available scientific evidence with patients' interest utmost in our minds. In fact, in the majority of practices it is not the dentists who purchase these items, but rather the practice manager on the advice of the dentist, advice that may not be consistently available. Situations of conflict and duality of interest may well be relatively common in the dental profession, and these should be acknowledged and dealt with in an open manner. Currently, the Australian Dental Association is developing a policy to advise its members where these conflicts and dualities of interests arise.

Michael McCullough

Australian Dental Association