Dental Law – Dental Practice Act
The dental board is also responsible for creating and enforcing the state Dental Practice Act, which contains the laws governing the business and professional aspects of dentistry in the state. The DPA determines the contractual relationship the dentist has with patients as well as how the practice must be run. The laws and provisions of the DPA are different in each state but
there are some similarities with regard to the conduct of the dentist.
1 According to the Americans with disabilities Act, a dentist can’t refuse to treat any patient on the basis of race, creed, color, or disability. This includes persons with HIV and AIDS. As you may know, AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). HIV suppresses or destroys the T-cells of the body’s immune system (the system that fights off disease). Because of this, AIDS patients lack the ability to fight off any disease will which they might come in contact. They frequently get opportunistic diseases, infections that usually are controlled by the body’s immune system but can’t be because it’s not working properly. Dentists who feel they can’t treat certain individuals should give them a referral to a place where they can expect treatment.
2 The dentist is responsible for the actions, legal or illegal, of himself or herself and the office auxiliaries. A patient can sue the dental treatment but can also sue the employee individually. Included in this responsibility is the direct and indirect supervision if dental auxiliaries. By direct supervision, we mean that the dentist is physically present in the office, authorizes the procedure, is there while it’s done, and checks the results before the patient leaves. By indirect, or general, supervision, we mean that the dentist delegates a procedure or type of treatment to a trained auxiliary and needn’t be physically present while it’s done. We’ll discuss later in this section how this may affect you.
3 The dentist must charge reasonable fees for treatment. Care, once begun, should be completed in a reasonable time. The dentist should notify a patient in writing if care could no longer be provided.
The care a dentist must provide to a patient includes
• Licensure (because of all the knowledge that’s needed to become licensed)
• Reasonable skill and judgment in the performance of each type of procedure undertaken
• Use of standard materials, drugs, and techniques that are accepted by the profession.
The Law and the Dental Assistant
Laws affecting the use of auxiliaries have been changing in recent years. These changes are made in the DPA. In some states, the DPA has been changed to allow hygienists to work under general super vision. Assistants who’ve had special, extended training in dental procedures can work under general supervision and provide certain treatments directly in the mouth. However, in other states, dental assistants and hygienists still must work under direct supervision.
If you perform duties that aren’t allowed by the DPA in your state, you’re committing an illegal act. As the laws change, continue your education. Keep up-to-date! Then the dentist will feel confident in giving you more responsibility in patient care and dental procedure.