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Dental care is a personalized service that requires a good relationship between the dentist and the patient. Learn about handling disputes and how to get answers to other questions you might be afraid to ask.


Good communication is one of the essential aspects of a healthy doctor/patient relationship. Too often we hear about complaints that could have been avoided through increased discussion and understanding between the practitioner and patient.

We encourage you to ask your dentist whatever questions you have pertaining to treatment (see some suggestions following). Asking before a procedure begins better ensures you will understand all aspects of treatment, will not be surprised or disappointed, and will be pleased with the outcome. 

Treatment, Costs & Payment

Dentists are required to inform patients about proposed treatment. You may be asked to sign an "informed consent" release regarding the proposed treatment, which indicates you understand and authorize the treatment. Such information may include an explanation of the procedure its benefits, potential complications and the practitioner's expectations for its outcome.  

If you don't understand any part of what your dentist recommends for treatment, don't be afraid to ask for more information.

When discussing a particular treatment option, you may want to ask if there are other treatment options available, how the options differ in cost, which solution will last the longest and if all the options solve the problem?

When discussing a proposed treatment, make sure you understand the fees, and method and schedule of payment before you agree to the treatment.

You will also want to know what your health plan covers for dental procedures and should ask if the dentist participates in your health plan. Learn more about Dental Insurance.

Learn more about dental treatments on the ADA Oral Health Topics page.

Dental Records

Record Retention

Missouri Law requires dentists to maintain patient records (and lab work orders) for a minimum of seven years from the date of when the last service was provided or in the case of a minor, seven years from the age of 18.

Requesting Records

Missouri Law requires dentists, upon written request of a patient, or guardian or legally authorized representative of a patient, to furnish a copy of the patient record within a reasonable time of the request and upon payment of a reasonable fee (see law for amounts), which shall not exceed the actual cost of time and material used to compile, duplicate and furnish such record.

  • Dentists may also charge for the reasonable cost of all duplications of health care record material, such as x-rays, which cannot routinely be copied or duplicated on a standard commercial photocopy machine.
  • Dentists must furnish a copy of the records, regardless if patients have a balance due or not, but can charge as stated above.
  • Dentists do not have to provide a patient with original records. All original records and x-rays are considered property of the doctor, but copies must be furnished, as detailed above.

Be a Wise Consumer

There's a wide array of dental care products available that can leave you feeling overwhelmed as you walk down the store aisle. When making your decisions:

  • Talk to your dentist about the oral care products that will be most effective for you. People's needs differ, so you'll want to choose products that will help you maintain good oral hygiene at home, between visits.
  • Look for a product that bears the ADA Seal of Acceptance. The ADA Seal on a product is your assurance that it has met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness.

Learn more about the ADA Seal of Acceptance

Disputes & Complaints

Even in the best doctor/patient relationship, a problem may occur. First, discuss any concerns you have with your dentist. Many times this will help clear up the matter. If you are still not pleased, the MDA offers the Peer Review program, which attempts to resolve dental treatment problems and misunderstandings through mediation.

Note: If your complaint does not qualify for Peer Review, the MDA directs you to to complete a complaint form available from the Missouri Dental Board.

What is Peer Review

  • Peer Review is not a court and has no disciplinary function. It merely provides an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, at no cost to either party.
  • Peer Review is a process by which the dental profession reviews and attempts to resolve dental treatment problems and misunderstandings through mediation.
  • The purpose of the Peer Review system is to resolve disputes that may arise in the delivery of dental services to the public.
  • Unbiased, objective and timely reviews are conducted using the MDA Peer Review format for addressing disputes between patients, dental care providers and third-party carriers.
  • The MDA Peer Review Committee consists of MDA member dentists who volunteer their time and expertise to review and assist patients. They may meet to discuss the case and may examine clinical records, talk to the dentist and patient and, when indicated, arrange for a clinical examination.

If you determine your case is a matter acceptable by the Peer Review Committee (see criteria following), complete the Peer Review Request Form and return it to the MDA to begin the Peer Review process.

Matters accepted for Peer Review

  • The treatment in question must have occurred in the past 12 months.
  • Appropriateness of Care: The Peer Review Committee shall determine the professional acceptability of planned or completed treatments, consistent with diagnosis. In other words, did the dentist provide appropriate treatment for the condition that existed?
  • Quality of Treatment: The Peer Review Committee shall determine the acceptability of completed treatment based on the standard of care expected by the profession. In other words, was the treatment performed by the dentist done correctly?

Matters not accepted for Peer Review

  • Any complaint that doesn't concern the appropriateness of care or quality of care is not accepted.
  • If the case involves a fee or billing dispute, it is not accepted.
  • Complaints of poor customer service, practice management or concerning a staff member's behavior are not accepted.
  • If either party has contacted an attorney, even if litigation has not been initiated, the case will not be accepted.
  • If a complaint already has been filed with the Missouri Dental Board, it will not be accepted.

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