Risk Management for Dental Laboratories
Find a safety net to fall into should your laboratory be called into question.
Increasingly, dental laboratories face “claims” from dental clients to make good on cases that do not go as planned. Dental laboratories can mitigate their financial and other
liability risks by implementing protocols that ensure their responsibilities are outlined and proper documentation is maintained.
With the exception of an in-lab shade verification appointment, the law generally prohibits dental laboratories from having any direct patient contact. The dentist is the medical professional and is responsible for prescribing the device specifications and materials, as excerpted from the American Dental Association Policy Statement on Prosthetic Care and Dental Laboratories.1
The dental laboratory’s responsibility is to make the device exactly as directed by the dentist’s specific prescription. The dentist has the opportunity and the ethical obligation to inspect the device or appliance before permanently installing it in the patient’s mouth.
At the discretion of the dentist, the dentist’s installation may subject the device or appliance to bending, grinding, and use of adhesives. After installation, patients often find creative uses for their teeth that are not recommended by their dentists.
At the point the dentist inspects and accepts the device and makes the decision to install the device in the patient’s mouth, the device enters a very dynamic environment wholly outside of the dental laboratory’s control. At this point the dental laboratory has fulfilled its duty to the dentist. The following are some key actions that can help you manage your risk relative to claims or litigation:
- Lab Experience and Credibility—Include a brief statement about your dental laboratory’s history (years in business, number of dentists served, etc.) and a non-technical explanation about the process used to make the devices and appliances, stressing the quality-control processes employed. If your laboratory is a CDL, DAMAS, or ISO certified business, include a statement about the rigorous documentation processes your laboratory underwent to become certified. If you employ CDTs in your laboratory, include some discussion of the rigorous training and processes that are required to become certified.
- Documentation—Make sure that your laboratory documents any case notes relative to in coming or outgoing communication for each restoration. To minimize potential claims, in many cases, the “party” with the most documentation wins.
Limitation of Warranty Language—It may be helpful to include in invoices, websites, or other written documents, a statement to the effect of:
“All items are manufactured to the specifications of the dentist’s prescription/work order. We will deliver all items to the dentist free from defect and will be happy to replace or repair any items if they are not received in satisfactory condition. The dentist agrees to inspect all items when received and prior to installation and will promptly notify our laboratory if any items are not satisfactory. Any express or implied warranties are expressly limited to replacement or repair of the item, which shall be the exclusive remedy, and the laboratory will not be responsible for any consequential damages including, but not limited to, any costs or labor associated with the repair or replacement of items.
Note: If your written documents do not include a similar statement you may wish to consult legal counsel to develop appropriate similar language for your jurisdiction.
1. American Dental Association. Current Policies: Adopted 1954-2009-Laboratories and Technicians, Statement on Prosthetic Care and Dental Laboratories. Chicago: American Dental Association; 2010;164.
About the Author
Eric Thorn, Esquire, is a chief staff executive with NADL.