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Dental Malpractice Insurance FAQ for 2024

Requirements for Professional liability insurance for Dentists, also known as Dentist malpractice insurance, vary from state to state, making it a challenge to choose the right policy. Desert Mountain Insurance provides resources to assist its members in navigating the insurance landscape. Here are some frequently asked questions and their responses, from cost to examples.

What is dental professional liability insurance?

Dental malpractice insurance safeguards dentists against claims resulting from their dental treatment or services. It handles the expenses related to defending, settling, and/or awarding damages in professional liability lawsuits and claims.

Do I need dental malpractice insurance to practice?

Malpractice insurance is typically required to practice dentistry, although the specifics can change from state to state. Before purchasing a policy, it’s advised to check with your state licensing board or local dental society to understand the exact requirements.

What’s the difference between occurrence and claims-made policies?

An “occurrence” policy provides coverage for claims linked to treatment or service offered during the policy period, regardless of when the claim is lodged. On the other hand, a “claims-made” policy mandates that both the treatment or service and the claim occur while the policy is in effect. If a claim is made after the policy ends, you will not be covered unless you have an “extended reporting endorsement”, often known as “tail” coverage. Consulting with a licensed insurance agent can help you figure out which policy is best for your practice.

If I retire, should I be concerned about malpractice coverage?

Most insurance companies offer free “tail” coverage to policyholders who have been insured for a minimum of five years and are retiring, becoming disabled, or have passed away. You should consult your insurance agent and insurer to confirm whether tail coverage is included in your policy.

How much coverage should I have for dental malpractice insurance?

Desert Mountain Insurance does not provide definitive guidelines on the suitable limit of liability coverage as risk factors can differ considerably. Factors such as practice location, types of procedures, use of anesthesia, risk tolerance, costs, and employer requirements all play a role. Also, some state laws may enforce specific requirements on malpractice insurance policy limits. It’s advisable to discuss with your insurance agent what policy limits are adequate for your needs.

How much does Dental Malpractice Insurance cost?

The average cost of dental malpractice insurance in Arizona is around $5,000 per year. However, this is just an estimate, and the actual cost may vary depending on several factors such as the location of the practice, the number of employees, and the type of coverage.

The cost of medical malpractice insurance in California depends on the type of profession and the level of coverage. Medical malpractice insurance typically costs $8,500 per year on average in California. However, this is just an estimate and the actual cost may vary depending on several factors such as the specialty and area of expertise.

Should I have separate liability limits for my dental practice?

If your dental practice is incorporated, your insurance agent may advise having separate liability limits to protect the entity. This prevents the need to “share” your limits if both you and the practice are named in a claim or lawsuit. You should consult with your insurance agent or legal advisor to determine the appropriate limits for your practice structure.

What is a “consent to settle” provision?

This refers to a clause in a dental professional liability policy which dictates if the insurance company can settle a claim without your consent. If your policy has an unrestricted consent to settle clause, the insurer can’t settle without your written agreement. Ensure to discuss this with your insurance agent and legal advisor to fully understand your rights under the policy, including any limitations such as mandatory arbitration or a “hammer” clause that could make you financially responsible for a portion of the claim cost.

What is the most common dental malpractice in Arizona and in the US?

Most people are not aware of just how common dental malpractice is in the United States. Over 34,000 lawsuits were filed against dentists between the years 1990 and 2004. Between 1990 and 2003, approximately 13.5% of all dentists in the US had a malpractice report filed against them by at least one patient.

One of the most common dental malpractice lawsuits is dental negligence during a tooth extraction. Tooth extractions vary from fairly simple to complicated oral surgeries. Unfortunately, dental negligence during tooth extractions is common, and the effects can be severe. Negligent dental extractions can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Sinus perforation

What is liability in dentistry?

Dentist liability insurance is a type of professional liability insurance that protects dentists from lawsuits and claims arising out of dental treatment or services they provide or fail to provide to patients. It covers the costs of defense, settlement, and/or awards for damages resulting from alleged errors, omissions, or injuries caused by dental operations.

Dental Professional Liability (malpractice) insurance protects against claim allegations arising out of dental treatment or services you and your employees provide, or should have provided, to patients. This insurance covers the cost of defense, settlement and/or awards for damages resulting from professional liability lawsuits and claims.

What is an example of dental malpractice insurance claim?

Dental malpractice occurs whenever any type of substandard care is provided that falls below the level of care a reasonable, professional dentist would have offered. Here are some examples of dental injuries that commonly result in malpractice lawsuits:

  • Extractions. An extraction (commonly referred to as “getting a tooth pulled”) could result in an infection that requires hospitalization or other serious complications.
  • Endodontic procedures. Some patients experience complications that include instruments breaking off in the canal or perforations of the canal.
  • Implants. Implants can fail if they are not properly placed or if the patient does not follow proper aftercare instructions.
  • Nerve damage. Nerve damage can occur during any dental procedure, but it is most common during wisdom teeth extractions.
  • Periodontal disease. If periodontal disease is not diagnosed and treated properly, it can lead to tooth loss and other serious health problems.



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