Your rights and responsibilities as a patient

By Dr. Stephanie McGannDMD FAGD, Columnist, The Times

In just a few days I will be representing the state of Pennsylvania at the annual meeting of the American Dental Association.  As a member dentist I subscribe to a code of ethics. Whatever the future of our healthcare holds, we cannot lose sight of ethical care.  The American Dental Association also has a patient’s bill of rights. This document while not legal in nature is a guideline for developing a healthy dentist patient relationship. I felt it important enough to share with permission.

Your dentist is the best source of information about your dental health and wants you to feel comfortable about your dental care. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums means more than just brushing and flossing every day and visiting your dentist regularly. As an informed dental patient, it also means knowing what you can expect from your dentist and dental care team and understanding your role and responsibilities in support of their efforts to provide you with quality oral health care. 

Patient Rights

  1. You have a right to choose your own dentist and schedule an appointment in a timely manner.
  2. You have a right to know the education and training of your dentist and the dental care team.
  3. You have a right to arrange to see the dentist every time you receive dental treatment, subject to any state law exceptions.
  4. You have a right to adequate time to ask questions and receive answers regarding your dental condition and treatment plan for your care.
  5. You have the right to know what the dental team feels is the optimal treatment plan as well as the right to ask for alternative treatment options.
  6. You have a right to an explanation of the purpose, probable (short and long term) results, alternatives and risks involved before consenting to a proposed treatment plan.
  7. You have a right to be informed of continuing health care needs.
  8. You have a right to know in advance the expected cost of treatment.
  9. You have a right to accept, defer or decline any part of your treatment recommendations.
  10. You have a right to reasonable arrangements for dental care and emergency treatment.
  11. You have a right to receive considerate, respectful and confidential treatment by your dentist and dental team.
  12. You have a right to expect the dental team members to use appropriate infection and sterilization controls.
  13. You have a right to inquire about the availability of processes to mediate disputes about your treatment.

 Patient Responsibilities

  1. You have the responsibility to provide, to the best of your ability, accurate, honest and complete information about your medical history and current health status.
  2. You have the responsibility to report changes in your medical status and provide feedback about your needs and expectations.
  3. You have the responsibility to participate in your health care decisions and ask questions if you are uncertain about your dental treatment or plan.
  4. You have the responsibility to inquire about your treatment options and acknowledge the benefits and limitations of any treatment that you choose.
  5. You have the responsibility for consequences resulting from declining treatment or from not following the agreed upon treatment plan.
  6. You have the responsibility to keep your scheduled appointments.
  7. You have the responsibility to be available for treatment upon reasonable notice.
  8. You have the responsibility to adhere to regular home oral health care recommendations.
  9. You have the responsibility to assure that your financial obligations for health care received are fulfilled

What makes this so important is that many of these rights are being infringed upon by the insurance industry and legislation aimed to limit a patient’s access to an actual dentist. Take charge of your health care. Ask your dentist if he or she belongs to the ADA. It matters.

For complete patient information visit

Dr. Stephanie McGann, who has more than two decades of dental practice experience, is a resident of the Unionville area and along with her partner, Dr. Marie Scott, operates The Brandywine Smile Center, a family-friendly dental practice in Concordville. Dr. McGann has opened a new practice in Valley Township, Rainbow Valley Dental. She is the current President of the Chester/Delaware Dental Society and she is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.

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