Periodontal disease, an ongoing inflammatory condition that harms the supporting tissues of teeth, is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults. Additionally, it poses a risk for implant failure, making it crucial for dentists to uphold their legal responsibilities by screening and treating patients for this condition.
As a dentist, your legal commitment involves identifying this condition in your patients and providing suitable treatment if detected. Neglecting this responsibility and allowing the progression of periodontal disease could result in legal action against you.
Understanding Your Legal Responsibilities about Periodontal Disease
Here are essential aspects of your legal obligations concerning periodontal disease:
Thorough Screening: It is your duty to assess all patients during their initial examination and at regular intervals thereafter. This assessment can be conducted using a basic periodontal examination (BPE), which entails measuring pocket depths around teeth.
Accurate Diagnosis and Treatment: Precise diagnosis and subsequent appropriate treatment is vital. This might involve scaling and root planing—a non-surgical procedure to remove plaque and tartar from teeth and roots. In advanced cases, surgical intervention could be necessary.
Referrals to Specialists: When referring patients to periodontists, adhere to the British Society of Periodontology’s referral criteria. These criteria outline the conditions warranting referral to a periodontist for specialized care.
Thorough Documentation: Keep thorough records of findings and treatment decisions in patient dental records. Proper documentation safeguards your position in case of legal claims.
Potential Legal Consequences
Failure to fulfill these legal obligations may lead to negligence claims from patients. If proven, such claims could demand compensation for tooth replacement due to periodontal disease-related tooth loss and costs associated with required implants or treatments.
Protecting Yourself from Lawsuits of Periodontal Disease
Adopt these measures to safeguard against periodontal disease lawsuits:
Regular Periodontal Assessments: Regularly assess periodontal health during initial exams and follow-ups. Early detection allows identification of high-risk patients who might need more frequent monitoring.
Educate Patients: Emphasize proper oral hygiene practices and provide guidance on maintaining oral health. Educating patients plays a crucial role in prevention.
Specialist Referrals: For advanced cases or when treatments aren’t yielding results, refer patients to periodontists to ensure specialized care.
Thorough Documentation: Maintain comprehensive records of findings and treatment decisions, offering a layer of protection in potential legal disputes.
Additional Strategies for Periodontal Disease Prevention
Beyond these legal considerations, you can assist patients in preventing through the following:
Smoking Cessation: Encourage patients to quit smoking, as it’s a significant risk factor.
Manage Medical Conditions: Address underlying medical conditions like diabetes or gum disease that contribute to periodontal issues.
Antimicrobial Products: Prescribe antimicrobial mouthwashes and rinses to mitigate plaque and bacterial growth.
Routine Cleanings and Checkups: Schedule regular professional cleanings and dental checkups to monitor oral health and remove plaque and tartar.
Following these practices not only protects you from legal repercussions but also ensures patients’ optimal oral health by preventing periodontal disease and promoting overall well-being.