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Common Queries

  • Q
    Is it advisable for a dentist to apologise if a patient experiences pain after treatment?
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    01 September 2014

    An apology is not an admission of guilt but is simply an expression of regret; for example, ‘I am sorry you had so much pain after the extraction.’ This does not mean the dentist has done anything wrong but is more an expression of sympathy/empathy and an understanding of the difficulty the patient faced. An apology coupled with an explanation can provide reassurance to a complainant and is often all the patient is looking for.

    It is particularly important where a patient has been avoidably harmed; the lack of an apology in these situations is one of the many reasons why patients take complaints further. 

    Members can explore this further by downloading the risk management module on complaint handling from the library here

  • Q
    Do I need to update the patient’s medical history on every appointment?
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    19 January 2016

    It is a matter of clinical judgement in the circumstances of each individual case, how often the updating of the patient’s medical history should take the form of a further written questionnaire, or whether it is sufficient for it to be done verbally.

    If the latter, the discussion should in any event be confirmed by means
    of a dated entry in the clinical records. A compromise solution would be a supplementary sheet, or even a rubber stamp on the reverse of the original medical history form, to the effect that the patient has read the previous responses to the medical history questionnaire, and confirms that this information is still correct. This should again be signed and dated by the patient.

  • Q
    What does contemporaneous mean?
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    18 September 2014

    When referring to clinical records it means records made at the time the patient is treated. Records made contemporaneously will be more accurate, as there is less likelihood of something being forgotten or incorrectly recalled.

    If made at the time of treatment, there is no risk that the records can be influenced by subsequent events, such as the patient making a complaint to the receptionist after treatment has been completed. Dental Protection interprets the time of treatment as the period whilst the patient is seated in the dental chair for a consultation, as well as when specific treatment is being provided.

    Records made at the end of a session, or at the end of the day, are not considered to be contemporaneous. Working in a busy practice is not an acceptable reason for a delay in writing the records.

  • Q
    My written English is not very good. Is it acceptable to ask the practice manager to deal with all my correspondence and communications?
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    19 January 2016

    Whilst there is no reason why you should not employ a practice manager to correspond with your patients, this person would still be working to your instructions and it would be necessary for you to be able to check what has been written on your behalf to ensure that it accurately reflected what you were trying to communicate to the patient. We can all have trouble with spelling and grammar from time to time and help from a member of the team who can write good English can certainly be helpful in achieving a good professional standard.

    If the communication is coming from you, then the signature on the communication should also be yours and not that of the practice manager (although the manager could sign it in your absence if this is stated alongside their signature). Ultimately you are responsible for all communications with the patient and you have a vicarious liability for the acts and omissions of any practice staff who are acting on your behalf.

    Dental Board of Australia; English language skills registration standards

  • Q
    Is it enough to ask a patient if they have seen our price list on the website or in the waiting room before starting treatment and to bill them at the end?
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    19 January 2016

    By displaying a price list in the practice and on the website, patients can gain some idea about the cost of the initial examination. Indeed it is a good idea to tell all patients if the price list has been updated and to offer them a printed copy or indicate where it can be viewed.

    Although they can read the prices of an x-ray or other items of treatment they will not necessarily know how many x-rays and what sort of films will be required, or indeed what other treatments might be clinically necessary. Clarification of the cost needs to be done before starting the treatment in order to avoid misunderstandings about the cost of treatment 

  • Q
    I have a Master’s Degree in implant dentistry and a special interest in endodontics. Can I include this information on the practice website and professional stationery?
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    19 January 2016

    Registrants who are not on a specialist list should not describe themselves as “Specialising in …”, a particular form of treatment but may use the term “Special interest in …”, “Experienced in …”, or “Practice limited to …”. Therefore, you could describe yourself as having a special interest in endodontics.

    Practitioners must state clearly their professional qualifications.  A practitioner who does not hold specialist registration or an endorsement must not claim or hold himself or herself out to be a specialist or to hold endorsed registration, either explicitly or by implication, or attempt to convey that perception to the public. See Section 6.4, ‘Advertising of qualifications and Titles’ for further information. AHPRA Guidelines of Advertising of Regulated Health Services.