Due to the rise in dental malpractice litigation, it is important that every dentist understands what needs to be done to practice risk management and avoid malpractice actions. Here are some easy guidelines which dentists can follow to reduce a dental malpractice claim.

Understand the legal terminology

First of all, dentists need to be familiar with certain legal terminology to reduce the possibility of a dental malpractice action brought against them.

Negligence – This is the most common claim brought against a dentist where the patient claims that the dentist was negligent in performing his or her duties. There are four basic things that a malpractice action consists of:

  • Prove that the dentist owed a duty of care to the patient – First of all, in a dental malpractice case, the prosecuting party will prove that the dentist owed a duty of care towards the patient.
  • Breach of duty of care – Once that is proven, the prosecutor or patient will try to prove that the dentist breached that duty of care.
  • Injury to the patient – The third step in a negligence case is to prove that the patient suffered from an injury.
  • Cause of injury – Lastly, the prosecution has to prove that the dentist was responsible for causing that injury to the patient.

Competent dentists are familiar with the fact that a certain level of competency is expected from them in providing the desired level of care to their patients.

Accurate record should be kept

To avoid problems in a dental malpractice claim, the dentist must keep accurate record of each patient. These records should be complete and accurate and documentation of each patient’s consent and understanding of the proposed treatment should also be taken. If these steps are followed, the dentist will have better legal defense against a malpractice action. Dentists can also involve the patients in their treatment process to prevent any malpractice claims from arising in the first place.

Patients should be actively involved in their treatment process

Most patients want to take decisions regarding their health and they feel more secure if the dentist involves them in the treatment process. This way the patient will feel comfortable and will not find any objections with the course of treatment provided by the dentist. Happy patients are also less likely to instigate a malpractice action.

When a dentist informs his or her patients about the different treatments available, the patients can find out about them by searching over the internet also and familiarizing themselves with the benefits or complications that may arise in each type of treatment. They will also be able to discuss the treatment plan better with their dentist and choose the one that best suits their needs.

Trust is extremely important in a dentist-patient relationship and every dentist must aim to gain that trust. However, patients should also understand that the dentist is skilled and experienced and will take the best decision which is in the patient’s interest.

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