The legal definition of dental malpractice varies from state to state. However, a general description of dental malpractice that is consistent from state to state would be described as medical malpractice for an injury due to negligent dental work, failure to diagnose or treat possible precarious oral conditions, delayed diagnosis or treatment of oral disease or other precarious oral conditions, false qualifications for marketing, as well as any malevolent or otherwise intentional misconduct on the dental professional’s part.
Dentists, like other doctors, can face punitive and legal consequences if patients are not satisfied with the dental treatment. Like all other medical staff, dentists are under the obligation to comply with the legal rules in the country they practice. They also have to consider ethical principles as well as the acceptable standards and protocols of diagnosis and treatment.
Recently I came across a news clipping, which was printed in a famous dental journal and was authored by an eminent dentist in our field. A practicing dentist in Mumbai was issued an arrest warrant on the complaint of the patient. According to the patient, a housewife from Mumbai, the doctor’s claimed degrees as projected by him were misleading and were not recognized by the relevant authorities, in this case by the D.C.I. (Dental Council of India). The issue came to the forefront particularly since the promised treatment plan failed. The doctor had mentioned and flaunted international degrees in implantology and had used abbreviations of the same which as it turned out were not recognized by the council.
The case is reportedly a landmark case in the history of dentistry and law in India, but such has been the plight of the profession that such cases have been reported globally with an alarming rise with the increase in competition. In India it was the first time that a dentist was being pulled up for the use of abbreviations which are supposed to represent degrees or diplomas or even memberships but are not recognized by the dental council.
According to the dental council code of ethics it is binding for the dental professionals to refer to only those degrees which are from recognized universities and are approved by the DCI.
The mention of these memberships and affiliations on visiting cards, nameplates and boards or other material is specifically barred by the law, unless such degree is registered with the council. It is common today to see doctors mentioning a string of ‘degrees’ or other abbreviations, largely consisting of memberships of various dental organizations or bodies. If the word UK, USA or some other western country follow such abbreviations in brackets, the value of such abbreviation increases. In plain words dentists cannot write MIDA or FACD on their visiting cards, sign boards etc. as per DCI regulations. It is very important that our profession exercises self discipline in this regard.
The D.C.I. code of ethics 1976:
6. Unethical practices—The following shall be the unethical practices for a dentist, namely:-
(p) mentioning after the dentist’s name any other abbreviations except those indicationg dental qualifications as earned by bim during his academic career in dentistry and which conform to the definition of ‘recognised dental qualification’ as defined in clause (j)of section 2 of the Act, or any other recognized academic qualifications;
(q) using of abbreviations like (i) R.D.P. for Registered Dental Practitioner, (ii)M.I. D. A. for Member, Indian Dental Association, (iii) F.I.C.D. for Fellow of International College of Dentists, (iv) M.I. C.D. for Fellow or American College of Dentist, (vi) M.R.S.H. for member of Royal Society of Hygiene, etc., etc., and the like, which are not academic qualifications.
Another drawback is the fact that there is no way of knowing whether the certificate was obtained in 2 days or 2 months or even just by paying & not attending. With such cases on the rise & people falling prey to such cheap marketing tactics on a daily basis, this article is just a piece of advice for the educated yet uninformed.
Author: Dr. Sudhanshu Mehta
B.D.S., M.D.S. (Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery)
Consultant Maxillofacial Surgeon,
The ORTHO-MAX Dental Clinic
S – 28, second floor, Plot No. 2, Sect. 22, Dwarka, New Delhi – 75
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