No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

How do you handle situations where dental patients refuse x-rays?  Do you see the patients anyway?  How about when patients need treatment for gum disease, yet they insist on having a basic cleaning.  Do you give-in to the patient with the idea that a cleaning is better than nothing?

Every dental practice has faced the aforementioned scenarios.  Sometimes you will change your recommendations to fit the demands of the patient, always with the hope that your “good deed” has some kind of positive impact.  However, like the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.  Your desire to be accommodating may just get you in trouble with the Board, and in some cases it could cost you your license.

If, for example, the x-rays are necessary—meaning you are following the ADA guidelines for the patient’s level of dental health—and you give-in to the patient and proceed without films, you are now potentially liable.  Maybe treatment is rendered that is later called into question, but you do not have x-rays to support your actions.  Maybe the patient is diagnosed with oral cancer several months later (that would have shown up on the x-rays), and then you are potentially liable for not detecting the cancer.

This is why it’s in your best interests to not treat patients who refuse necessary x-rays.  You throw open the door for potential liability.  The same holds true when patients refuse treatment for gum disease yet you allow them to have a regular cleaning.  If that patient later suffers a periodontal abscess or loses a tooth to gum disease, for example, you could potentially be liable.

And as the Board will tell you, having patients sign a consent form is not going to protect you.  The best thing for your patients and for your dental practice is to follow the standard of care given the patient’s dental health.  Do not give-in to something less, even if it means losing the patient, because the potential consequences to you are much more severe.

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