Management + Leadership

What dental students should know about risk management

Risk management is our best defense to ensure a healthy and prosperous dental practice. Ranging from malpractice claims to employee claims, becoming familiar with common lawsuits in dentistry is critical. It is also vital to practice risk management in your dental practice. Risk management is significant in combating and defending yourself against claims and lawsuits. Outlined are essential details to recognize when considering risk management in your dental practice.

Recognize problem patients

A common mistake that dentists make, especially recent graduates, is not recognizing “problem patients.” These individuals may harbor characteristics that include unrealistic expectations, lengthy care histories and issues with different dentists, bouts of care primarily on emergency cases, perpetual dissatisfaction, histories of failure to pay and non-compliant attitudes. Often, these characteristics are observed in plaintiffs and litigious patients. Be aware and alert. Wise dentists will discern these features and choose to discharge or not accept these patients. This action will save you valuable time, money and any unanticipated aggravation. If you decide to treat these patients, be judicious in documenting all aspects of care, including all discussions, consent and behavior.

Have proper documentation

A failure to take consistent and complete documentation is another major risk management error many dentists make. The best defense to most dental lawsuits is accurate and detailed documentation. As one of my professors said, “If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen.”

Having your dental staff informed and calibrated to provide accurate documentation can ensure proper coverage for your practice. All documents must be timed and dated, and state all actions, care, instructions and communication delivered. All responses received and missed appointments must be
documented as well. As dental students, comprehensive documentation is something we can start practicing and making a habit now, starting with our patient care at school.

Learn four more ways dentists should practice risk management by reading the March issue of Contour.

~Imran Rauf, North Carolina ’19, Chapter Webmaster

Imran Rauf

Imran Rauf is a third-year student at UNC School of Dentistry and is his chapter's webmaster.

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1 Comment

  1. I agree with you, we need to select our patients, in an ethical way of course

    It is a denied subject, as if “it is not going to happen to me”

    We need to be cautious!

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