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A Comprehensive Guide to Malpractice Insurance for Dentists

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You face numerous risks as the owner of a dental practice. You own some big-ticket items such as expensive equipment and furniture. You also have a responsibility to protect the health of your staff and your patients. A lot rides on a dentist’s shoulders and you want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to help your business thrive. That begins with getting the right malpractice insurance for your business.

Malpractice Suits Can Be Costly

A dentist's worst nightmare is a malpractice suit. Unfortunately, due to the nature of dentistry, dentists make mistakes. A procedure can go wrong even if you do everything right. 

These are just a few instances where patients suffered permanent bodily injury either due to a dentist’s negligence or a simple mistake. That’s where malpractice insurance can step in to protect you.

Exposures Dentists may Face

A dentist can be held accountable in a court of law for negligence or mistakes made if the following can be proven:

  1. That a doctor/patient relationship was established.
  2. That your mode of treatment deviated from standard in the industry and that it was negligent.
  3. The patient must also demonstrate that damages occurred for you to be held liable.

If the patient can prove that you were negligent in your practice and harmed their health, they will likely be awarded a judgment against you, your company, or your group. What are some of the risk exposures that you face?

  • Nerve damage is caused when you perform a root canal, extract a tooth, etc.
  • You don't receive informed consent from a parent or legal guardian for a procedure
  • Burns, cuts, or other bodily injury caused inadvertently
  • Failure to properly diagnose cancer or disease
  • Failure to refer a patient to the proper specialist
  • Extracting or damage the wrong tooth
  • Improper bridge or crown work
  • Improper infection control causing illness

These are just a few of the many risks that dentists face in their practice. While you likely never intend to hurt a patient or risk their health, you're only human and you will make mistakes. You want to make sure the proper professional liability policy

What is Dental Malpractice Insurance?

Dental malpractice insurance is a type of professional liability insurance that provides coverage if a lawsuit is brought against you. In most cases the insurance company will provide you a lawyer and cover court-related costs, judgments, or settlements. Dental malpractice is usually offered in two different types of policies: claims-made coverage and occurrence coverage. 

Occurrence Policies

Occurrence policies protect against claims which are filed against you for dental work which occurred while the policy was in effect. If a claim is filed against you after your coverage has expired—or even after you have retired—you will still be covered if the claim is about an incident that took place during the time it was in effect.

Claims-Made Policies

This type of insurance policy is typically offered at a lower cost by an insurance company than the occurrence policy. The premiums are based on the timeframe in which the claim against you is made. Different premiums are offered based on the timeframe you choose to purchase, which is usually anywhere from 1–5 years.

Let’s say you choose a two-year claims-made policy but two years and 45 days after the coverage is canceled, you get a notice that you are being sued. This claim is not covered because you only have a two-year policy. If you retire or leave your practice, you are not covered unless you get another insurance policy which is known as "tail coverage," which will continue to protect you after you are out of practice until the statute of limitations is over. Some insurance companies offer tail coverage for either type of policy. 

Who Needs Malpractice Insurance?

Anyone in the dental field needs to obtain malpractice insurance to mitigate their risk:

  • General Dentist
  • Orthodontist
  • Periodontist
  • Endodontist 
  • Oral Surgeon
  • Prosthodontist

How Much Does Dental Malpractice Insurance Cost?

If you’re opening a new dental practice, many insurance companies offer low-cost premiums for a specified length of time (sometimes up to 5 years). Dental schools also frequently have partnership agreements with various insurance companies. If you participate in any of several types of risk management program or other seminars you may also be offered discounts on coverage. 

The average cost of professional liability insurance for new dentists within their first five years of practicing can be as low as $300—$1,000 a year. After 5 years in your practice, costs increase slightly to between $2,000–$3,000 a year. 

Other Insurance Options to Consider for Your Dental Office

There are other optional coverages you can explore to add more protection to your dental practice and give you peace of mind. To learn more about these policies, check out our guide to dental office insurance. 

Get a Quote To Protect Your Dental Practice

Let us help you find protection for your business and keep your mind at ease. At CommercialInsurance.Net, our goal is to get you an affordable commercial insurance quote. Complete the form at the top of the page to contact us or give us a call at 1-877-907-5267 to get started.


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