Dental Patient Bill of Rights

Your Rights as a Dental Patient

  1. You have a right to have complete information about your condition conveyed in words and concepts you can understand. Dentists have a language all their own, but most “normal” people don’t talk that way. When you are unsure or unclear, insist that your dentist explain things to you using everyday words.

  2.  You have a right to be presented with all reasonable options, each with its implications and risks. You can’t make an informed choice unless you know what options are possible, what your dentist recommends, and why he or she is making that recommendation. At times your dentist will have a clinical preference and you should understand why he or she thinks this would give you a better clinical outcome. That does not mean that your dentist would not consider an alternative treatment. In order to make an informed choice, you must also be in a position to reject other possible approaches to your care. While there are times when only one option is reasonable, you have a right to know when other options exist.

  3. You have a right to seek a second opinion (or more) any time you want additional information from another source.  Second opinions are perfectly reasonable and you should not be afraid of insulting your dentist by seeking one. Professionals are used to conferring with one another and several heads are often better than one.

  4. You have a right to understand the fees you will be expected to pay and how you will be expected to pay them.  In this area, there should be few, if any, surprises. While treatments can change due to changing conditions and new information, you should always be informed when this is the case so you can authorize a new procedure or approach. You should know how these treatment changes would impact fees.

  5. You have a right to be seen and be treated on time – within reason. While unexpected events with a previous patient can occasionally cause delays, these should not be regular event

  6. You have a right to be informed of your progress and any changes that are required once you have embarked on a course of treatment. There are no guarantees in dentistry or medicine. Your dentist may offer a preliminary course of treatment that is intended to stabilize your oral health in order to formulate a definitive treatment plan. If such a multiple phase treatment plan is necessary, your dentist should have informed you of this at the time you were presented with the initial phase. You should expect additional fees and procedures in subsequent phases of your treatment. There may be a time when part of your treatment is to be done by specialists you have been referred to by your dentist. Their fees are separate and in addition to any fees from your dentist.

  7. You have a right to a complete commitment to comfort. Once your dentist has evaluated and assessed the cause or source of your pain, then treatment should proceed as comfortably as possible under almost all circumstances.

  8. You have a right to be treated with respect at all times. This includes the privacy and security of your records and the privacy of your discussions with the dentist and staff members.

  9. You have a right to expect healthcare providers to use appropriate infection and sterilization controls. 

  10. You have a right to copies of your dental records. Your dental records are yours. The dental office should provide you copies of all written records and x-rays in a timely manner. There should be no charge for this, unless multiple printed copies are requested, and then the fee should be minimal, to defray the cost to the office in preparing multiple copies. Electronic copies can be emailed to the doctor or doctors of your choice at no charge once you have given written permission to transmit your personal health information.

Your Obligations as a Dental Patient

  1. You have an obligation to be truthful with your dentist at all times. What you don't reveal he or she cannot know. Do not withhold information especially about your medical and health status, and medications you are taking as this could hurt you. Don't assume that a medical condition does not affect a dental condition or treatment. Do not withhold your opinions and feelings — negative as well as positive. Dentists want you to be happy. If you don't tell them you are displeased, they can't take measures to correct that.

  2. You have an obligation to take your daily medications unless your physician directs you to discontinue them. Failure to take your insulin, blood pressure medication, or other medicines may have a drastic negative impact on dental treatment, or may be cause to delay your treatment.

  3. You have an obligation to show up on time as agreed. If you make an appointment, keep it. Failure to keep and appointment or cancellations with less than 24 hours notice do not give the dentist time to fill that vacancy in the schedule. Multiple instances of last minute cancellation or failure to keep the appointment are valid reasons for the dentist to dismiss you as a patient.

  4. You have an obligation to accept and begin treatment in a timely manner after your treatment plan is presented. Costs to the dental office change, and so do fees for dental care. Fees quoted in a treatment plan should not be expected to be valid for longer than one year after the treatment plan is presented.

  5. You have an obligation to pay as agreed. Do not agree to treatment you cannot afford. Dentists have a right to be paid a fair fee for their efforts.

  6. You have an obligation to participate in your care and keep current on your cost of treatment and insurance coverage, if any. If your insurance does not pay as much as expected because of deductibles or because your benefits for the insurance year have been exhausted, you are still responsible for the balance owed for your care.

  7. You have a responsibility to make reasonable decisions within yours and the practice’s limitations. Carefully weigh the consequences of accepting or refusing treatment, and appropriately discuss changes in your circumstances that may occur during your course of care. 

  8. You have an obligation to treat your dentist and his or her staff with respect and be a pleasant person at all times. Trust and respect are reciprocal. You can disagree without being disagreeable. This is fair to everyone.