According to the United Press International website, more than 80 percent of people are afraid of going to the dentist. They come up with reason after reason not to go, such as the appointment not fitting into their schedule, or not knowing any “good” dentists in the area. Some are afraid of being hurt, but most people’s fear seems to be based on other people’s experiences. Knowing exactly what to do if you do have a dentist who you feel is bad at their craft can help ease your mind and hopefully reduce that fear.
First, discuss the problem with your dentist. We all know that mistakes can be made. We assume that our medical professionals will never make any blunders, but there is often a simple explanation. You also have to be the judge of whether your issue is actually with the dentist himself or herself, or with some of the clerical staff. Often, a dentist dose not want to lose your business and will rectify the situation immediately.
If talking to your dentist doesn't work, write a complaint to your state or local board of dentistry. Your complaint should be devoid of emotion. Remember, this complaint letter will be seen by other dentists and boad membes. You can address it with a simple "To Whom It May Concern" if you haven't been able to ascertain the name of the particular board member on the state or local Web site. (See the Resources for information on your state or county board's contact information.) Your complaint should explain chronologically who was involved, what happened, when it happened, where it happened and why it happened. You should also include any actions you have taken upon yourself to rectify the situation, such as talking to the dentist or his or her office manager. Don’t forget to include contact information on how the licensing agencies can reach you as to the outcome of your complaint.
Next, file a complaint with your local dental professional organization. Remember, their organization is based on making sure the dental professionals in their jurisdiction are trying to promote their profession. Knowing that a complainant will likely tell others of their experience gives the organization an incentive to try to address your issue in a timely manner. Include your dentist’s license number (which can usually be found on your state’s licensing board’s Web site) and a release of medical information. This allows the dentist's office to release your medical information to any agency you agree to. Most state or local dental boards of dentistry have a specific form they prefer you to use, which you can access from their Web site. If not, you can contact them to find out what their specifications are. It could save time in your complaint process if you already have the form included in your complaint.
If you are unsatisfied with the actions taken by your local organization, take your complaint to the state level. Some state licensing boards are prohibited from investigating unless they have received a written complaint. Once the investigation progresses, it either goes to committee or an administrative judge, depending on the state in which you reside.
After filing with the previous state and local agencies, filing a complaint with the American Dental Association is the final way to cover all of your bases.
For obvious reasons, you should only initiate malpractice litigation if you are dissatisfied with the actions taken by your dentist, local and state boards, and the ADA. There are many malpractice lawyers available; look for one who was trained as a dentist.
Send your complaint by certified mail with a signature receipt. Expect that your case might not get addressed right away. Keep the records of when you mailed your complaint, as it can only help your case.
If you would like to try to find information on your dentist, simply check the ADA Web site (see Resources) to find out whether your dentist is an ADA member.