September 30, 2022
by Kiran Madesha, Legal Advisor, dentalcorp; Kristy Pilatzke, Risk and Compliance Officer, dentalcorp
Every dentist aims to please by providing their patients with optimal treatment outcomes. This dedication to success can sometimes lead a dentist to offer patients a guarantee (a promise of a satisfactory outcome) or a warranty (a time-limited agreement to replace, repair or refund a defect in material or workmanship). Other dentists may feel obligated to offer a guarantee or warranty when practicing in a competitive market or in response to a patient’s request. Whatever the reason, it is essential to remember that in healthcare – and dentistry is no exception – results are never guaranteed. Despite one’s best efforts, patients may still end up dissatisfied.
Guarantees or warranties are most often offered for restorative or prosthetic treatments such as implants, crowns, bridges, fillings, or veneers. However, the success of treatment depends on many factors, a number of which lie outside the dentist’s control, including the patient’s oral hygiene, substance use, the presence of comorbid conditions like osteoporosis or dementia, adherence to post-operative instructions, and dental trauma. Dentists who have practiced long enough know that the human body is always capable of surprises, and treatments may fail for no apparent reason. Even in the best conditions, dental restorations and prostheses may need to be replaced after a certain amount of time.
Patients also play an important role in the success or failure of their own treatment outcomes. Occasionally, a patient will reject a perfectly executed denture or bridge, to cite just two examples, due to subjective, evolving aesthetic preferences, the way they feel, fit, or function. Whether or not they follow their aftercare instructions is also a key factor, and dentists should be very careful to avoid arrangements that may disincentivize patients from looking after their dental treatments or overall oral health.
While being accountable is the hallmark of a true professional, dentists should avoid creating unreasonable expectations for patients. Practitioners should keep the following in mind when managing treatment outcome expectations with patients.
Managing patient expectations is the key to success in dentistry. To that end, dentists must do their best to ensure patients fully understand the associated risks and limitations of any proposed treatment by engaging in an appropriate informed consent process and avoiding promises that may be impossible to uphold.
About the Authors
Kiran Madesha is a licensed lawyer with the Law Society of Ontario and works on dentalcorp’s Compliance team as a Legal Advisor. Kiran holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Liverpool and a Master of Laws degree with a concentration in Health Law from the University of Toronto.
Kristy Pilatzke is an experienced quality and compliance professional with over 14 years of experience in regulated healthcare industries, from pharmaceuticals manufacturing and specialty pharmacy to acute care and dentistry. She is currently a Risk and Compliance Officer at dentalcorp. Kristy holds a Master of Science in Healthcare Quality from Queen’s University.