By Dr. Deborah Marynak
According to J. P. Graskemper, DDS, JD, there are two main reasons patients sue dental professionals:
(1) The patient claims they have been harmed either through treatment or non-treatment.
(2) The patient wants money.
CNA HealthPro (a malpractice insurance company) estimates up to 80% of malpractice claims are not because of substandard dentistry but are related to money issues. The money issues may be over money the patient paid to the practice or money still owing the practice.
According to National Practitioner Data Bank, there were 19,755 actions taken against Dentists and 3,131 actions taken against dental Hygienists/Assistants in the 10 years between 2006-2016. That averages 1,976 per year against dentists and 313 against hygienists/assistants.
- Failure to recognize problem patients
- Pursuing collection of fees where care may be an issue
- Failure to advise/train staff for the need for consistent, accurate and complete documentation
- Failure to maintain a pleasant chairside manner
- Failure to assign an employee to recognize risk management issues and resolve them
- Failure to avoid adverse comments about other practitioners
- Failure to appropriately follow-up on important issues
- Failure to properly discharge patients when necessary
- Failure to refer when necessary
For Dental Hygienists:
- Failure to update medical histories
- Failure to detect oral pathology
- Failure to detect periodontal disease
- Injury to the patient
Here are some additional reasons dental professionals have been sued:
- HIIPA violations
- Failure to practice standards of care
- Breaching infection control standards
- Failure to determine if a patient needs premedication
- Failure to record thorough documentation
- Failure to identify a medically compromised patient and pursue a medical release
- Upcoding or incorrectly coding procedures
When reviewing these statistics, it’s easy to see how in a busy, stressful day something can be missed. We can only hope there is a Team atmosphere in the Dental Practice where everyone is working together to not only care for patients but avoid potential problems. If your Staff or any individual on the Staff is not working as an ally, it really can’t be said they’re part of the Team. In this case, I believe it’s time to invite them to work somewhere else.
Information taken from articles written by Diane Glasscoe Watterson, RDH, BS, MBA and Linda J. Hay, J.D.
“Every experience in your life is being orchestrated to teach you something you need to know to move forward.”
– Brian Tracy
Dr. Deborah Marynak is the owner of DentalStaffing.org, a dentist with over 30 years experience, and is committed to helping Dental Professionals find the right fit for both employees and employers. She also works with Dental Offices to help them streamline their clinical systems and teach Dental Teams how to effectively document to avoid risk.