Are you getting informed consent?

Informed consent forms list all (sometimes the most common) the benefits and risks of the treatment or test you are about to undergo. In dental offices, we are supposed to adhere to informed consent principles by letting patients know the risks of the procedures, the alternative options available to them, and the risks of no treatment.

Most practices tell me that they are lax in getting informed consents on services like simple fillings and whitening procedures.  We all know that there are risks associated with whitening and fillings that should be told to the patient.

When you are presenting treatment options to your patient do you verbally go through these things with patients? Do you give patients a written informed consent? The answer in most dental offices is probably no.

Why are dentists hesitant to provide informed consent for all services?  The reason most often given is they are afraid the patients will be frightened and decline treatment.  Dentistry is not a popular service by any means but is necessary for the health of the patient and must be treated as such.   Most patients have signed informed consents at physician offices and hospitals so the process is not a surprise to them.

Without informed consent, there is risk to the patient, the dentist, the staff and the practice.  For instance, failure to inform the patient that the tooth might fracture during a filling procedure and then need a crown can result in a very angry patient.  This is a common occurrence in the dental chair but the patient doesn’t know unless you tell them.  Telling them and having them sign that they understand the risks is sound protection for both parties involved.

It is better to customize the informed consent to the patient by listing the tooth number and the procedure involved.  The entire process takes only a couple of minutes. The informed consent actually saves time because it explains to patients the risks associated with their treatment.  Having written proof that each patient was properly informed, makes treatment much less stressful.

Many dental software programs such as Dentrix and Eaglesoft have the capability of quickly producing a legal and patient friendly informed consent for almost any procedure performed in a dental practice.  This makes it easier for the dental team to access it and get an approval from the patient without taking much time.


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