Frequently Asked Questions

Have a question about a pressing risk management issue? Our experienced Risk Management analysts have answers. From treating minors to retaining patient records to employee leaves of absence, chances are, your question has been asked before. The following is a list of frequently asked questions, along with practical solutions, that can help you avoid liability within your practice.

Practice Website Accessibility: A New Wave of AwDA Litigation

Content Type - RM Matters

“Click by” lawsuits based on violations of the Americans with Disability Act are being targeted at dental practices in increasing numbers. Learn what makes a website accessible, your role in compliance and how to reduce your risks.

The boyfriend of my minor patient’s mother brought the child in for a scheduled appointment. Can he bring her in for treatment?

Treating Minors

Yes, assuming the mother already consented to the treatment plan. The minor’s parent/guardian must accompany him/her to the initial appointment, at which time you must have an informed consent discussion about the diagnosis and treatment plan. The parent/guardian must have agreed to the treatment plan prior to authorizing anyone to bring the minor to the office. The non-parent or non-guardian cannot consent to the minor’s dental treatment.

The parents of a child in my practice are divorced, and custody is being contested. How do I avoid getting involved in their domestic problems?

Treating Minors

When both parents are involved with the child’s care, have both parents sign or make revisions to the consent to treatment form and the financial agreement, and review them thoroughly. Establish which of the parents will be financially responsible and send financial statements to only that parent. This way, you are removed from payment disagreements between the two parents. Additionally, verify and document whether the person who is financially responsible will also be responsible for treatment decisions. Experience shows that it is best to have the same parent designated as being responsible for both treatment and financial decisions. Regardless, you may provide copies of the child’s treatment record to either parent, unless the custodial agreement states otherwise. It is acceptable to request to see the court order concerning custodial responsibilities.


Treating Elderly Patients: Minimize Risk With Informed Consent and Updated Health History

Content Type - RM Matters

Dental professionals face a number of challenges in securing consent for oral care, but there are specific consent and documentation considerations when caring for older adults. It is important that dentists are mindful of chronic illnesses or cognitive impairments that could affect a patient’s ability to consent to dental treatment.

When parents regularly disagree about their child’s treatment, is it appropriate for me to withdraw from care?

Treating Minors

It depends. While you are not a counselor, sometimes sitting both parents down and explaining how they are placing their child’s oral health at risk inspires a compromise. Tell them that you are considering postponing treatment until they can come to an agreement. It is important to document all occasions where the parents’ disagreements have compromised your ability to treat the child. If you have an office policy in place designating one parent responsible for both financial and treatment decisions, gently remind the parents of this signed agreement and why this policy keeps their child’s best interests in mind. If you do not have a policy in place, send a letter to both parents asking them to clarify which parent will make decisions about the child’s care. If these efforts fail and you cannot get them to agree, consider withdrawing from care. If you do, do so in writing. Remember that you cannot withdraw from care if doing so would cause injury to the patient. Complete any course of treatment you have begun before withdrawing. In the withdrawal letter be sure to include that you will see the patient for 30 days only for emergency visits. Contact the TDIC Risk Management Department for advice on withdrawing.

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The suggestions provided represent experience and opinions of TDIC. There are no guarantees that any particular idea or suggestion will work in every situation. The ideas and suggestions contained in this document are not legal opinion and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. For legal advice specific to your practice, you must consult an attorney. 

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