© Gary Inglese

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1535 Lake Cook Road, Suite 602
Northbrook, IL 60062
Phone: (847)272-2900
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Dental Defense - Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations Defense - Dental-Legal Issues - Dental Risk Management - Dental Contracts and Business Issues - Dental Office Transitions

Dismissing a patient is not easy and often follows a significant incident that prompts the action.  The dentist needs to follow certain guidelines to dismiss the patient correctly and not develop additional liability or risk.

Dismissing a patient – withdrawing from care

Important Elements

of Patient Withdrawal

  • The patient should be provided with written notice of the dentist’s intent to withdraw from dental care.  It is best to discuss the matter with the patient and then follow up with the written notice.  Sometimes the relationship is so worn that there is no point in further discussion.  No matter the reason for discharge, try to handle the matter cordially and try to resolve any dispute that may exist.
  • Send the withdrawal from care letter via certified mail with a return receipt requested and also a copy by regular first-class mail.
  • Allow a reasonable amount of time for the patient to find another dentist.  Thirty (30) days is sufficient.  The letter should clearly state the termination date that the office will no longer be available for emergency care.  It should also mention the need for continued monitoring of specific dental conditions, such as periodontal disease, etc.
  • Provide viable references for referral, such as the local dental society, other dentists or the patient’s managed care plan.
  • Consider enclosing an “Authorization to Release Dental Records Form” with the letter so the patient can sign and return to allow you to transfer their information to the next dental provider.
  • To avoid the claim of abandonment, withdrawal from care should be done in writing only after the patient’s treatment is completed.  You must finish any treatment in progress, such as endodontics or provisional restorations.  The entire treatment plan does not have to be finished, but any procedure in progress should be finished.  The patient cannot be left at risk.
  • Alert office staff that a withdrawal letter has been sent so that if the discharged patient does call after the termination date, staff does not make another appointment for the patient to return.
  • ​Remember that you cannot refuse to transfer dental records because the patient has not paid their bill.  Withholding the records could trigger a complaint to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation or expose the dentist to liability if the patient suffers an injury because the subsequent treater did not have access to information in the record.