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    Dental assistant advice: What to do when you believe the dentist is negligent

    After receiving a blistering email from a fellow dental assistant, a member of the Modern Dental Assistant editorial board shares what she thinks should be done

    Over the last few years when speaking to dental assistants (and sometimes after writing an article that appears in Modern Dental Assistant), dental assistants will contact me about a very touchy subject … and what they can do about it.

    Recently, I received an email from a very frustrated dental assistant who says that her doctor is “surprisingly incompetent, uncoordinated and so underhanded and mistrustful that it physically makes me sick.” This poor assistant is so distraught that she says she wants to tell patients to “RUN FOR THE HILLS!!”

    Many years ago, I too worked for a dentist who was so grossly negligent that I actually thought that I had to work there. I felt it was my responsibility to be there for those patients. I finally left after I simply couldn’t take what was happening. A few years later, that doctor took a mysterious leave, moved away and gave up the dental license. I will never know what happened. I am, however, grateful that this person will never touch a patient again. 

    I hear many things like, “My doctor gives out wrong information to patients”, “We don’t follow infection control protocol at all”, and “I’m preforming illegal duties but I need my job.” They all want to know what they can do. Who can they call for help?

    Now, I wasn’t born yesterday and I do realize that there are two sides to a story. I also know many dental assistants who misdiagnose all the time. Yes, we have seen it done a bazillion times but that doesn’t mean we know it all. Take Facebook for instance. Someone will make a post on a dental assisting site asking what “this” is, and 50 different answers all come up! As assistants, please remember that we are not legally able to diagnose. However, we aren’t stupid either. We witness or have witnessed negligence all the time, in the form of treatment, infection control, and/or HIPAA.

    More from the author: Tija reveals some of the worst infection control mistakes she's heard about

    Far too many times, I hear those words that make me cringe, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” YIKES! I used to wear bell bottom pants and bright blue eyeshadow and the mullet used to be a fashion statement. Thank God some things have changed. We simply can’t do things the way we used to do them. Times change. Our industry is changing and we have to change with it.

    Advice from Tija continues on page 2...

    Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, FADAA
    Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, MADAA, is an expanded functions dental assistant/office manager in O'Fallon, Mo. She is the director of ...


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