The Truth About Liability

woman in CBCT scanner

The Truth About Liability

The last thing any dental professional wants is a malpractice suit. It’s a reasonable fear, but unfortunately there are a lot of less reasonable liability-related misconceptions that seem to permeate the industry. These misconceptions appear on both ends of the caution spectrum; some professionals believe that simply purchasing a new machine will offer comprehensive protection, while others believe that new tech will leave them so vulnerable that they avoid it altogether. The truth, however, lies somewhere between these two extremes.

In the case of the first dentist, they are correct to a degree. Having new technology can indeed help safeguard against malpractice suits. However, the simple presence of these machines does not constitute liability protection and thinking it does can be a very costly error. The second dentist not only creates vulnerability by using old, outdated equipment, they also begin to fall behind their competitors in terms of the level of care they can provide. Even if their existing methods of administering care are enough to keep them safe legally, they risk letting the world pass them by while patients slowly but surely transition towards more up-to-date practices.

One of the most valuable new pieces of technology is the CBCT scanner, which offers countless benefits to dental professionals in a variety of fields. They are becoming increasingly ubiquitous with each passing year, so how can dentists legally protect themselves when making the leap to CBCT? The first step is to become as familiar as possible with the new technology by receiving an adequate level of training. In a piece for the Dental Tribune, attorney Stuart J. Oberman, Esq advises that “Without training, a dentist simply cannot meet the requisite legal standard of care due to the lack of adequate learning and skill that the standard necessitates. Also, once charged with dental negligence, the dentist can prove that he or she made a reasonable judgment error in diagnosing or reading the CBCT scan. However, the dentist will not be able to invoke this defense if he or she failed to stay current with the CBCT technology or obtain proper training, in the form of educational classes, and readings and hands-on experience.” Reputable CBCT manufacturers will include such training in the price of their scanners. The best ones will even send techs out to practices to go over the machine’s intricacies in person, taking hands-on experience to a new level.

Oberman offers another piece of advice: “It is also a wise decision to use the smallest field of view of a CBCT available that includes all areas of diagnostic interest. By doing so, fewer anatomical structures will be shown on the CBCT scan, which will minimize the dentist’s legal responsibility to detect abnormalities in structures outside the area of interest.” CBCT scanners with the variable fields of view will offer the highest degree of legal protection as their results can be limited to imaging of necessary areas.

In an industry so dependent on the latest technologies, it’s critical that dental professionals avoid holding themselves back with fears of liability issues. With the right technology and the proper training, they will be well equipped to administer premium quality care with top-tier legal protection.