Dental Malpractice Insurance: It’s Essential
Dentists across the country work tirelessly as patient advocates, to give patients the care they need and educate them about preventive dental procedures. Stories abound about dental heroes, who do pro bono work, help during crises and do everything they can for their patients. Still, dental malpractice claims are on the rise.
Here are some of the reasons that make it essential for today’s dentist to be covered by dental malpractice insurance, also as known as Dental Professional Liability:
1. Dentists are performing more complex procedures on patients. The number of patients who put off dental treatment, especially preventive care, has greatly increased over the past few years. According to US Census data, 181 million Americans did not visit a dentist in 2010 and the number of people who went to the Emergency Room for dental care nearly doubled from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2010.
2. Patients who have unreal expectations and/or more complex problems that can’t be fixed in one visit, can leave a dentist open to litigation. Even if allegations are unwarranted, having dental malpractice insurance in place, with a carrier who understands the dynamics of dental practice, can reduce the stress of a lawsuit.
3. Patients who are referred to, but don’t follow up for specialty care put many dentists in a difficult position. Malpractice litigation often arises when a dentist fails to refer a patient to a specialist, but suits are also initiated when the dentist, sensitive to the needs of a patient who says they cannot afford specialty care, performs a procedure that is beyond their comfort level. Discussing the need of specialty care with a patient and documenting the discussion can help to avoid malpractice claims.
181 million Americans did not visit a dentist in 2010 and the number of people who went to the Emergency Room for dental care nearly doubled from 1.1 million in 2000 to 2.1 million in 2010.
4. Dentists are seeing more patients who have delayed care and present with complications related to periodontal disease. Nearly half of all adults over age 30 in our country have some form of periodontal disease, according to the CDC. Dentists have been involved in educating their patients about the importance of having healthy teeth and gums, but more education is needed. Patients don’t always recognize the importance of dental health as it relates to their overall health. One of the leading claims against dentists, by patients who initiate malpractice suits, is that they were not treated properly for periodontal disease. Having dental malpractice insurance can mitigate the damage such a claim, whether justified or not, can have on a practice.
5. Many claims stem from a patient’s lack of understanding procedures and prognoses. It does help to have patients sign informed consent forms, but a consent form alone will not guarantee a favorable outcome if the patient does not understand what their treatment involves. Good communication and follow-up documentation goes a long way toward avoiding litigation and having a favorable outcome if litigation is initiated. Even the simple act of telling the patient what you are going to do before you do it can help avoid mistakes.
6. We tend to think of “slip and fall” as something that happens in a supermarket, but slips, falls, cuts and burns can also happen in a dental office. General Liability Insurance can be added to a dentist’s malpractice insurance policy and is essential if a patients complains of a “slip and fall” or other adverse event.
7. The cost of dental care has increased significantly over the years, but the maximum levels of insurance reimbursements have remained the same since the 1960s. It is too soon to tell what impact new health care legislation will have on the public’s access to dental coverage. Allowing a patient’s coverage to dictate care, even if the patient wants to delay treatment because of cost, can be very costly to the dentist. Frankly discussing payment and consequences of delayed treatment, and documenting such a discussion can make the difference between a compliant patient and a complaining patient.
Frankly discussing payment and consequences of delayed treatment, and documenting such a discussion can make the difference between a compliant patient and a complaining patient.
8. If a patient registers a complaint, remember that the Dental Board is required to investigate, complaints have been brought against even the most caring and skilled dentists and many complaints are without merit. Having Dental Malpractice Insurance means that you have experts to help you respond effectively if a complaint is brought against you.
Insurance Innovations helps dentists get the dental malpractice insurance they need to protect their practice and their finances.
or contact Insurance Innovations today to speak with a dedicated professional.
Avoiding Malpractice. Mitchell J. Gardiner, DMD. Inside Dentistry Nov/Dec 2006, Volume 2 Issue 9. http://www.dentalaegis.com.
Action for Dental Health. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org.
James Charles Haigh, Ten Ways to Avoid Malpractice Claims, AVVO, www.avo.com.