How to Avoid Dental Malpractice Suits
Dental malpractice lawsuits are on the rise, and dentists are being sued for everything from misdiagnosis to poor hygiene. If you’re a dentist and want to avoid these types of lawsuits, there are several things you can do to help keep your practice safe.
Key Points for Preventing Dental Malpractice Lawsuits
When dealing with patients, consider and make sure that the following points are being covered fully. While there is no foolproof way to avoid a mistake, you can decrease the likelihood of a dental malpractice suit by following these tips:
- Explain the risks of any treatment and make sure that patients understand them before they agree to the procedure.
- Explain the risks of not getting treatment and make sure patients understand those as well.
- Keep complete records of all procedures and appointments.
- Make sure to follow up with patients after a procedure is done, especially if there are any complications or problems that arise from it.
- Establish good relationships with your patients on a personal level so that they trust you enough to come back for future care, even if it means taking time out of their busy lives. This will also help prevent malpractice lawsuits.
- Be honest about any risk factors involved in any procedure or treatment plan you give someone.
- Refer your patient to a specialist if you’re unsure how to treat a condition.
Keep reading to learn more about these critical lawsuit prevention tips.
Explain All Options in Detail
A common reason for dental malpractice suits is not explaining a patient’s options clearly. Consider these tips to prevent issues:
- Explain all options in detail: Explain the pros and cons of each treatment, including associated risks, how long it will take, how much it will cost, and how often your patient should return for regular checkups.
- Be honest about what’s wrong: If there are any lingering problems after treatment (or if you need to do more work than expected), tell them right away so they can get back on track with their oral hygiene.
- Respond to any complaints promptly: When you receive a complaint, respond to it as quickly as possible. This could be within 24 hours or even sooner. Make sure that the patient understands what you have done and why. Also, make sure that they are satisfied with your response. If they aren’t satisfied, follow up to see if you can help them better understand.
- Establish open communication with your patient: Establishing open communication with your patient is important in helping them feel comfortable at the dentist and keeping them coming back for treatment. This is one of the main reasons why malpractice lawsuits arise—the lack of trust between patients and dentists. It’s important that you establish an open line of communication with your patients so they know exactly where they stand at all times during treatment or diagnosis.
Keep Complete Records For Dentist Malpractice Cases
One of the easiest ways to prevent misunderstandings or confusion is to keep diligent records. If a patient calls later on to ask why you performed a certain procedure several months ago, you can refer to your documentation. Don’t forget to write down small details, like why a procedure was rescheduled or questions the patient had during their visit.
Ask the Patient Clarifying Questions
Asking someone questions about what you’ve explained is one of the best ways to see if they understand. This shouldn’t be in a way that makes them feel like they don’t know anything, but certain questions can clear up any confusion and give you peace of mind.
Ask them if they understand the reasoning behind performing certain dental procedures or prescribing medications. You can prevent misunderstandings if there is confusion about why something happened—for example, if the patient doesn’t think they were informed of some kind of complication before surgery, and therefore blames the surgeon entirely.
Make Sure Prescriptions Are Correct and Clear
As a dentist, you must make sure that prescriptions are correct and clear. This means you should:
- Know what the patient needs: Check your patient’s file to make sure they aren’t allergic to any medications, and ask them about any adverse reactions they’ve experienced before prescribing a drug.
- Know how to prescribe it: Some medications need special instructions on how they should be administered. If this is the case for your patient’s medication, make sure that those instructions are followed correctly every single time.
- Confirm your patient’s understanding of aftercare instructions before they leave the office: Get verbal confirmation that your patient understands their medication instructions and plans to follow them, and document the conversation in your recordkeeping system.
Don’t Hesitate to Refer to Another Specialist
Performing a procedure you’re not entirely comfortable with can result in complications and unhappy patients. Additionally, patients can file a suit if you don’t provide enough support or resources for an issue. If you encounter a problem that you’re unsure how to treat, don’t ignore it or try to handle it yourself—refer your patient to an expert.
Oral surgeons, periodontists, and endodontists may be better equipped to handle your patient’s case, and you won’t be responsible for complications that arise from procedures performed by the specialist.
Dental malpractice insurance can provide a financial safety net if you experience a dental malpractice suit. Learn how this coverage works.
Turn to Southpoint to Protect Your New Dental Practice
No matter how diligent you are in preventing dental malpractice cases, you may still face an unexpected lawsuit. The best way to ensure a lawsuit doesn’t threaten your financial future is to purchase a dental malpractice policy from Southpoint. We offer affordable coverage options from trusted carriers that help you cover lawyer fees and dental malpractice settlement amounts.
Get in touch today to learn about your commercial coverage options or request a quote to protect your practice from dental malpractice suits.