Dental office procedures and protocols are designed and implemented to protect patients and staff from the many hazards that exist in a dental office, to protect patient privacy and ensure the office has a standardized way of doing things. Having procedures and protocols in place makes certain that safety precautions are routinely observed, in addition to allowing office staff to stay better organized and provide more efficient services to patients.
A dental office contains many occupational hazards, including infection, psychological stress and allergic reactions, as well as exposure to mercury, ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, and anesthetic gases. Procedures and protocols are in place to address each of these hazards, and include collecting full health histories from all patients, a strict regimen for dealing with sharp items like hypodermic needles, and testing for reactions to the many potential allergens found in a dental office, such as latex glovex, solvents, and lubricating oils. Patients are protected from radiation with special blankets, while staff stand behind barriers when radiation is used. Dental professionals also wear protective clothing when working on patients, to protect themselves from bodily liquids.
Dental offices are subject to the rules established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA was instituted by Congress in 1996 as a means of protecting patient privacy from being misused and inappropriately disclosed. Accordingly, dental office procedures and protocols must be in line with HIPAA standards, such as ensuring patient information is locked up securely.
Appointment procedures and protocols for a dental office include establishing expectations of patients and office staff when it comes to scheduling. One such protocol is requiring patients to give 24 hour notice for cancellations. Additionally, if patients do not show up for scheduled appointments, the office's procedure may be to charge the patient a no-show administrative fee.
Dental offices must have procedures and protocols in place to handle patient complaints. In privately owned clinics, complaints may be made with administrative staff, such as the clinic's receptionist. She then forwards the complaint onto the dentist. Larger clinics may have customer service departments or staff whose jobs are to handle patient complaints.