Standard of Care - The Grey Area of Dentistry

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Standard of Care- The Gray Area of Dentistry is first in this blog series dedicated to some confusing legal aspects of the dental profession. In this litigious society, care must be taken to ensure that all phases of treatment are delivered with the highest of standards based on the needs of the patient. Standard of Care, Informed Refusal, Supervised Neglect, “Firing” a Patient, and Malpractice will be included in this series to help navigate the murky waters in preventing and handling a legal situation in your practice.

Standard of care (SOC) by definition is a written explanation outlining actions, rules, or conditions regarding the care of a patient. SOC in dentistry is principles taught by accredited dental schools and accredited hygiene programs and describes standards carried out by the profession.  SOC is determined by each state, and most dentists and hygienists don’t understand its meaning or how it’s determined.

In 1998, a landmark case defined SOC as follows:

  • Maintain an acceptable degree of education and skill comparable to doctors in the surrounding area
  • Use reasonable care and diligence during treatment
  • Be aware of new materials, techniques, and advances, and implement as deemed necessary and prudent
  • Use the best judgment in carrying out treatment and apply scientific-proven knowledge
  • Pursue techniques and education exercised by good standing members of the profession
  • Apply approved and safe methods
  • Educate the patient on their condition, introduce all applicable treatment plans, and advise as to what could happen if they accept or reject the treatment plan

In part two of this blog, we’ll explore some factors and variables of the standard of care.

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