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The State Regulation of Dentistry. Law and Ethics. What is the State Dental Practice Act?. state law which controls the practice of dentistry contains legal restrictions and controls only applies to that particular state in which it is written; each state has its own dental practice act.

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The State Regulation of Dentistry

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The State Regulation of Dentistry

Law and Ethics

What is the State Dental Practice Act?

  • state law which controls the practice of dentistry

  • contains legal restrictions and controls

  • only applies to that particular state in which it is written; each state has its own dental practice act

What is the purpose of the state Dental Practice Act?

  • protect the public from being mistreated or misled by incompetent practitioners

  • The primary function of the state dental practice act is to define and regulate the practice of dentistry

Provisions of Dental Practice Act:

  • Licensure

    • Eligibility, methods, requirements for licensure

    • Grounds for suspension or revocation of license

  • Defines the practice of dentistry within the state

  • Provisions for establishing and maintaining an administrative board to supervise practice of dentistry

  • A means of controlling the assignment of duties, including extended functions to auxiliaries (DA, Dental Hygienist, Lab Tech)

What is the State Board of Dentistry?

  • aka: State Board of Dental Examiners

  • Administrative Board of the state in which it exists

  • responsible for administering and enforcing the Dental Practice Act

    • Examine applicants and grant licenses

    • Deal with misconduct, incompetence, and related matters

    • Establish and regulate the functions assigned to dental auxiliaries (clinical staff who have a supporting or supplementary role i.e. DA, dental hygienist or lab tech)

What is a License?

  • legal permission to engage in a profession or business

    • Licensure= the act of granting licenses expressly to practice a profession or business

    • Purpose: protect public from mistreatment by unqualified practitioners

  • To obtain a license in the dental field, one must:

    • Apply to the state Board of Dentistry

    • Meet the educational and moral requirements

    • Pass an examination in theory and practice as specified by the state Dental Practice Act

Who must be licensed?

  • 1) Dentists

  • 2) Hygienists

    • Both must be licensed by the state in which they practice

  • 3) Dental Assistants are not licensed, though some states do require registration (RDA)

  • a mutual agreement between two or more states to allow an individual who is licensed in one state to receive, without further examination, a license to practice in another state

    • **still need to apply for license in each state even if that is a reciprocal state**

State Board of Dentistry may:

  • Suspend:to temporarily stop or interrupt

    • Dentist cannot practice during this time

    • License is reinstated after specified time and dentist can resume practice

  • Revoke:to take away

    • Dentist is no longer licensed to practice dentistry in that state

    • Dentist may petition to have license reinstated

Professional licenses can be revoked due to:

  • Conviction of a crime

  • Unprofessional Conduct

  • Personal or Professional incapacity

Conviction of a crime

  • Being charged with a crime doesn’t automatically lead to suspension or revocation

  • Fraud: intentional misrepresentation of the truth in an effort to deceive

  • Misdemeanor: any offense other than a felony, is less than a felony

  • Felony: a serious crime, such as rape or aggravated assault

  • Unprofessional Conduct

    • Permitting unlicensed personnel to perform dental procedures normally restricted to dentists

    • Failure to supervise personnel properly

    • Sexual advances toward or involvement with patients

    • False or inaccurate patient records

    • Fraud involving reimbursement of patient expenses by insurance companies or government programs

    • Giving or receiving rebates related to patient fees (discounts)

    • Transmission of disease by improper infection control

    • Improper communication of confidential patient information

    • Improperly prescribing, handling or selling controlled substances (drugs)

    • Patient neglect or abandonment

    Personal or Professional Incapacity

    • Addiction (abuse of narcotics or alcohol)

    • Severe physical or mental limitations that prevent adequate patient care


    • voluntary program that verifies standards for qualified DA

    • NOT a form of registration or licensure (requiredbylaw)

  • DANB certification is recognized in some states, but not in all of them

  • DA’s Responsibilities to Dentist

    • Always treat the dentist with respect

    • Support the dentist in any decision made for the patient

    • Perform only those tasks that are delegated to you by law

    • Conduct yourself professionally in the dental office.

    Respondeat Superior“let the master answer”

    • Dentist/employer is held liable(responsible under law) for acts of his/her employees

      • If wrongdoing was committed within the scope of their employment

      • Not liable if wrongdoing not within scope of their employment

        • IF you do something wrong while working properly, Doctor is liable; if you are working improperly, you are also liable

      • Dentist/employer is liable EVEN if employee is a licensed individual

    Why Respondeat Superior??

    • Employer has the right to direct and control employee; must exercise this right and be responsible for employee’s actions

    • Employer has exposed patient to hazard of employees and must suffer for the negligent acts

    • Employer has the assets(financial resources) to compensate the patient for the injury.

    If YOU are called into court

    • You may receive a subpoena

      • Court order commanding you to appear in court; cannot be ignored

    • You may have to give a deposition

      • Statement made by witness; you will answer questions under oath; takes place in lawyer’s office before the trial

    • You may have to give testimony

      • Evidence given by a competent witness under oath during a trial

    What to do if the Dentist is sued

    • Say nothing: don’t discuss case with anyone without doctor’s permission

    • Be Supportive

    • Be Cooperative with dentist and lawyer

    • Ask before acting do not give information to any other lawyer or show the patient’s records to anyone without the doctor’s permission

    You can still be sued!

    • Usually it is the dentist who is sued

    • The dentist’s liability insurance will not cover the auxiliary if she/he is sued for negligence

    • A dental assistant who is guilty of negligence is responsible for his or her own actions, and the injured party may sue both the dentist and the assistant

    • Some auxiliaries carry liability policies of their own

      • ADAA membership includes liability insurance but this does not cover negligence

    Levels of Supervision:

    • 1) Direct: The dentist remains in the room while DA performs task

    • 2) Indirect: dentist remains in office while DA performs task

    • 3) General: dentist is not required to be present in office when task is performed

    Expanded Functions for DA

    • aka: extended functions or EFDA

  • Assignment to DA of tasks of greater skill and responsibility which were formerly performed only by the dentist

  • Not available in all states (CT= no; MA = yes)

  • Governed by Dental Practice Act:

    • Allows dentist to delegate duties; very few states

    • Includes specific listing of functions; some states

    • State Board of Dentistry has authority to establish rules and regulations for EFDA; most states

  • Your responsibilities as a dental assistant:

    • Be careful! Do not allow yourself to do things which are improper or illegal.

      “a dental assistant who performs extended functions that are not legal is performing an illegal act: the unlicensed practice of dentistry” This is a CRIMINAL ACT.

      • if the dentist instructs the DA to perform this act, he/she is also guilty

      • if the dentist does not know of the act, he/she may still be liable

  • Know:

    • who is permitted to perform a particular function in your state

    • what education or training is required

    • what level of supervision is necessary

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