The importance of childproofing your dental practice

Nov. 15, 2016
While identifying areas of risk in your dental practice isn't usually a matter of life and death, the consequences can still be dire. The increasing number of government audits should encourage all business owners to conduct regular compliance reviews.

What baby book would be complete without a list of potential hazards lurking in your home? This list is not designed just to terrify you; it's provided to help you reduce the risks to your child. But childproofing isn't just for new parents. Removing potential threats from your dental practice should be a regular part of practice ownership. When was the last time you performed a thorough risk review for your practice?

While identifying areas of risk in your dental practice isn't usually a matter of life and death, the consequences can still be dire. The Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights recently announced the largest fine ever for HIPAA violations.1 While your practice is unlikely to be hit with a $5.5-million fine, the increasing number of government audits should encourage all business owners to conduct regular compliance reviews.

Here are just a few common areas of violation that can expose your practice to fines, lawsuits, or the potential physical harm of patients or team members.


Do you have a written exposure control plan for bloodborne pathogens? Bloodborne pathogen incidents are one of the most common reasons for OSHA citations and fines. Prevent citations and protect patients and the team by maintaining a written bloodborne pathogen exposure control plan and updating it annually. It should be readily accessible for all team members. Your systems and procedures related to bloodborne pathogens and infection control may also be of interest to your patients, especially those who followed the several high-profile dental office exposure cases in the news. Be prepared to explain your sterilization process to patients, as well as your methods used to confirm that equipment sterilization was completed effectively.

Human resources

Do you have a current human resources policy manual or employment handbook? Only about half of the dental practices that Henry Schein surveyed had an up-to-date policy manual. A policy manual is one of the most critical tools for defeating employment-related lawsuits, most of which are settled out of court for an average of $25,000. A policy manual must be customized to the needs of your dental practice and your state regulations. Not just a compliance tool, a policy manual supports effective employee management by creating clarity and consistency.


Have business associate agreements been signed by all required parties as defined by HIPAA law? Consider the prospect of having to contact all of your patients and the media to tell them their private health information is now public. The risk of data hacking for any individual dental practice may be low, but the consequences are severe. Protect your patients' health information by restricting access and ensuring that anyone who does have access signs a business associate agreement.


Have the dentist, hygienist, and certified assistant completed basic life support training specifically designed for health-care providers? Most states require all licensed dental team members to complete basic life support training on the same schedule as their license renewals. Training should teach how to recognize life-threatening emergencies, provide CPR, use an AED, and relieve choking in a safe, timely, and effective manner. Ensure your employees are prepared for an emergency situation. If a patient stopped breathing during or after a routine procedure, would your staff be able to recognize it and start performing CPR?

For a complete audit of your compliance practices or to schedule a training session for your team, contact your local Henry Schein representative, or request assistance at


1. Bullian A. Lessons Learned from the Largest HIPAA Fine in History. LinkedIn. Published August 8, 2016. Accessed September 1, 2016.

With more than a decade of marketing experience in the health-care industry, Jen McGuire now leads the marketing of Henry Schein Dental's Business Solutions. Jen developed and launched dentistry's first wellness program, Total Health Beyond the Mouth. Contact her at (800) 372-4346 or at [email protected].

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