The foundation for all dental practice should be sound clinical procedures. However, properly.addressing other aspects of patient care and office policy may considerably reduce potential legal liability. These aspects include dentist patient and staff-patient communication, patient information, informed consent, proper documentation, and appropriate management of complications. Additionally clinicians should note that patients with reasonable expectations and a favorable relationship with their dentist are less likely to sue and more likely to tolerate complications.
Patient Information and Office Communication
A solid dentist-patient relationship is key to any risk management pregrarn. Well-informed patients generally have a much better understanding of potential complications and more realistic expectations about treatment
outcomes. This can be accomplished by providing patients with as much information as possible 011 proposed treatment, alternatives and risks, and benefits and limitations of each. If done properly, the informed consent
process can’ improve rapport. Patients are given this information to help them better understand their care so they can make informed decisions: The information should be communicated in a positive manner and not
presented in a defensive way. Patients value and expect a discussion with their dentist about their care. Brochures and other types of informational
packages help provide patients with both general and specific information about general dental and oral surgical care. Patients requiring oral surgical procedures will benefit from information on the nature of their prob-‘
lern, recommended’ treatment .and alternatives, expectations, and possible complications. This information should have a well-organized format that is easily understood and is written in’ nonprofessional’s language. Informed consent is discussed in detail in the following section. When a dentist has a specific discussion. with a patient or gives a patient an informational package, it should be documented in the patient’s chart. Complications discussed earlier can be reviewed if they occur later. In general,patients with reasonable expectations create fewer problems (a theme repeated throughout this chapter).