Everyone should see a dentist regularly, but there’s more to it than sitting in a chair and having your teeth looked at. Before seeing someone about your teeth, you must sign a dental consent form. For patients, this means reading the information, asking questions, and agreeing to the treatment. Meanwhile, for dentists and orthodontists, it means providing complete, accurate, and understandable information so people can consent properly. We recommend downloading and using a professionally created dental consent form template to help save time and ensure that everything a patient needs to understand to give informed consent is included.
Good recordkeeping can help a dentist mitigate liability and ensures that every patient is allowed to ask questions, get clarification and understand what they agree to before it happens. As with any physical treatment, from surgery to cosmetic enhancement, there are benefits, potential side effects, risks, and often, but not always, alternative options. Whether your patient is there for a checkup and cleaning, or a complex procedure like a filling, they can only give informed consent when they know more. A dental consent form proves that they were provided with information and given a chance to ask follow-up questions and get clarification if they aren’t sure what something means, how it works, or the risks and benefits involved. In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about dental consent forms so your patients can make truly informed decisions and get the treatment they need.
What Is a Dental Consent Form?
A dental consent form is a legal document used in the practice of dentistry to show that, before any treatment, the dentist informed the patient about every aspect of the upcoming procedure. These forms indicate everything from relevant patient medical history to descriptions of the services and assent statements for the client to accept. In addition to being a vital and legally required part of dental recordkeeping, they serve as a means to help patients understand the benefits, risks, side effects, and alternatives to any procedure. Furthermore, dental consent forms help facilitate conversations about various aspects of dentistry, assuage fears, and protect the business from litigation.
Why a Dental Treatment Consent Form is Important
Dental treatment consent forms are important because they are legally required. Other reasons include helping the patient understand what will happen to them during treatment and what alternatives, risks, benefits, and side effects to expect. For the dentist and business, the dental treatment consent form acts as a shield that prevents litigation. Without this form, any patient that wished to could accuse the dentist of performing unauthorized procedures, also known as assault. So long as you follow the appropriate steps, having these documents on file proves that every patient gave informed consent.
Why do We Need Consent in Dentistry
We need consent in dentistry because all adults of sound minds have the right to determine what will happen to their bodies. This means that people are responsible for their own healthcare and must agree to have any procedure performed on them. Without informed consent, any and every procedure can be considered battery or other unwilling damage, even if it ultimately benefits the patient.
What are the Elements of Informed Consent
According to the FDA, the elements of informed consent are broken into different categories. Basic elements, additional elements, and documentation requirements. The basic elements include a description, a list of risks and discomfort issues, benefits, alternative options, confidentiality, contact information, and voluntary participation. In essence, the patient needs to know what will happen, what could happen, why it should or should not occur, their right, and the dentists’ right to share or not share their private information, the ability to contact or be contacted, and whether they agree.
Additional elements of consent cover topics like unforeseeable risks and whether the patient may need further treatment. For example, a patient wearing braces or Invisalign may require a retainer afterward to ensure the changes to their smile are permanent.
The documentation requirement is precisely that. Dentists, doctors, other medical professionals, and even those performing cosmetic procedures like skin care must obtain informed consent. This must include a physical or digital form showing that the patient received the necessary information to make a decision, except in a few extreme cases or where another adult is required to sign for the patient, as is the case for minors.
What are the 5 Situations Where Consent Cannot be Given
Not all patients are receptive, and some don’t care to understand what is being explained, but that is typically their decision. They can still decide to consent when provided the opportunity and information. However, there are situations where a patient cannot give consent. All of these are self-explanatory.
- Patient is asleep
- Patient is unconscious
- The patient is under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Patient is underage
- The patient is an adult who cannot sign contracts for other reasons, such as dementia or other conditions that affect clear cognition and require oversight from a qualified party.
Essential Elements of a Dental Treatment Consent Form
We strongly recommend using a preformatted, professionally designed template when creating a dental treatment consent form. However, we’ve provided the essential elements of a dental treatment consent form below in the order they typically appear on the page for reference. If you create your own from scratch, this can serve as an excellent overview of how to construct your form. Feel free to bookmark this page and use any information here for reference when customizing a template or making a new consent form.
- (Optional) Business Name or Logo- Using a logo or adding the name of your practice and its contact information at the top of your form makes it look nice, but you can skip this step if you prefer.
- Title- This should be in large bold print and state exactly what the document is, a dental treatment consent form.
- Patient Information- This section should include primary data such as the name, contact information, and DOB. You can have an optional indication of whether the patient is minor if you prefer, but the birthdate line combined with a later parent/guardian signature line will suffice.
- Type of Procedure- You can use a simple list for this section where you detail all the services you offer and use a box to check the correct procedure name. This will cut down on wasted time.
- Medical Questions- Dentists need to know if their patients have allergies or heart conditions or are currently taking any medications or supplements, as all of these things can create complications. Leave space for the patient to provide complete details.
- (Optional) Accommodations- Modern dentistry requires modern considerations. You may want to include a brief section for patients who need accommodations, such as a room you can get a wheelchair into comfortably.
- Acknowledgment Statements- This is another section where you can use checkboxes for convenience. In this section, include brief, clear statements of exactly what the patient agrees to. For example, they need to consent to the treatment. Add more statements that indicate whether they have discussed alternatives, benefits, and other essential elements of informed consent. You can also opt to have the patient’s initial instead of checking the box.
- Signature and Date Lines- At the end of your form, add space for the patient to print, sign and date the form. Include an additional, separate line for parents and guardians in case the patient is a minor.
- (Optional) Aftercare Instructions- Some dentists choose to include the self-care instructions in the consent form along with a statement where the patient consents to follow those directions and understands how choosing not to do so will affect the procedure’s outcome and their dental health.
Pro Tip: If you use a digital form, then you can skip the line for printing the name.
Tips For Informed Consent in Dental Treatment
Here are a few basic tips to improve your informed consent practices for yourself and the patients.
- Dentists should record all conversations for their records and safety
- Dentists should re-confirm that the patient understands their rights and obligations and (still) consents at every appointment
- Patients must understand the cost of each procedure
- Patients cannot be coerced in any way
- Patients have the right to complete and comprehensible answers to all their questions.
The average patient understands no more about dentistry than they do about brain surgery. As a result, creating informed consent is the duty of the dentist, which means providing a lot of information and explanations and answering numerous questions. Below we’ve included the most frequently asked questions from people seeking information about this topic to help provide clarification and education.
A dentist facing a patient who doesn’t want to do the proposed treatment has relatively little recourse and may require only a few basic things. First, the dentist can require them to sign a form saying they refused partial treatment if they agreed to only part of a service. Second, they can require the patient to leave if they refuse all available treatments. After all, this is a business, not a social club. Finally, they can, in many cases, require minimal compensation for their wasted time. However, they cannot require patients to agree to any treatment, not even an alternative option, if they do not wish to participate.
The short answer here is no. Patients do not have to agree to everything a dentist puts in their treatment plan. The patient is responsible for making their own choices about their body and for any consequences that come from not following the dentists’ recommendations and instructions. Performing any treatment without informed consent is considered assault.
The most common type of consent in dentistry is written. Although a few states allow verbal agreements, it’s generally a requirement for medical professionals and dentists to keep a physical or digital record of their consent forms.
Dentists can choose not to treat a patient. However, their discretion must be reasonable, and most importantly, it cannot discriminate based on protected statuses like gender and race. Additionally, a dentist can refuse to continue treating a patient if they become unmanageable or combative, as this would not be safe for either the dentist or the patient.
Dental patients have quite a few rights. Among these are high standards of care without regard to ethnicity, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability status. Patients also have the right to be treated with courtesy and respect, to safe, qualified care, self-determination, copies of their records, and confidentiality. Additionally, patients have the right to choose their dentist and be treated in a timely manner. If you would like a more extensive explanation of patient rights and responsibilities, check out this ADA patient rights and responsibilities sheet as provided by Watertower Dental ((https://watertowerdental.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/ADA-Dental-Patient-Rights-and-Responsibilities-Statement_WTDental.pdf))
Informed refusal is the other half of the informed consent spectrum. Once a patient is thoroughly informed about a treatment plan, that plan is optional. Just as patients can consent to any or all aspects of a dental procedure, they also have the right to refuse.
Dental treatment consent forms are necessary for anyone practicing dentistry because they are part of the recordkeeping process and show that the patients understood and agreed to the treatment plan. Dental professionals could find themselves in court on the wrong end of serious litigation without these vital documents. Fortunately, an excellent dental consent form reduces that risk and makes it possible to safely and legally perform dental treatments. Patients will feel more comfortable and prepared when they know what will happen, and dentists can easily show that they took every reasonable precaution in educating the client. Good documentation helps foster trust and create a more pleasant and safe experience for everyone involved. You can download and customize our dental treatment consent forms using MS Word, Excell, and similar programs in just a few minutes to provide yourself and your patients with peace of mind.