Dentists have well-defined legal, professional and ethical duties to their patients, the public and the profession. However, regular evaluations are necessary because their role and responsibilities are continually changing under the influence of a variety of internal and external forces and they further broaden as the profession evolves. Although a significant emphasis is placed on their responsibilities, professional rights of dentists also deserve particular interest because they are intimately related with these responsibilities. Furthermore, these rights enable dentists to serve and protect their patients and the community, provide quality care and comply with their broad responsibilities. In the first part of this series of three articles the responsibilities of dentists are analysed, while the second part focuses on the dentists' professional rights.