Skip to content

December 2018

Know the Facts on Dental Record Retention

Having a staff with a strong knowledge of dental record retention and distribution rules will go a long way in avoiding possible HIPAA privacy violations for dental record mismanagement.

Record Retention

Michigan law requires that dental records be kept for 10 years after the last treatment date. This topic has been an area of confusion among dentists because the state requirement for medical record retention is only seven years. While the Michigan Board of Dentistry has discussed changing the law to be the same as medical records, nothing has come of it. For right now, state law requires dentists to retain dental records for 10 years.

According to MDA Legal Counsel Dan Schulte, JD, there’s nothing stopping dentists from keeping dental records indefinitely, other than possibly running out of storage space. Schulte said 10 years is also long enough to cover Michigan’s statute of limitations on most dental malpractice claims. The adult statute of limitations is two years or six months after the malpractice is discovered or should have been discovered, whichever is later, but in no event longer than six years.

Releasing Records to Patients Owing Money

Another dental records question that’s a hot topic involves situations where a patient owing money to the practice requests his/her dental records. According to Michigan law, patients are allowed a copy of their record even if money is owed for previous treatment. In other words, a dental practice can’t hold a patient’s records hostage to get payment on an outstanding balance.

According to Schulte, a dental practice’s obligation is to provide a “copy” of the patient record and diagnostic quality radiographs. Even though many patients call practices demanding the original records and radiographs, Michigan law is clear that the dentist owns the original records. Under no circumstances should a patient be given the original records no matter how much of a fuss they make. Providing a patient with the original record puts the dentist in an unfavorable position should that patient file a lawsuit or levy a complaint with the Michigan Board of Dentistry.

Protect Yourself: Get a Policy

Schulte recommends that dental offices have a clear policy in place on the handling of dental records. Having a dental records policy keeps office staff aware of Michigan law concerning dental record retention, but also how to handle requests for them. This policy should also be regularly reviewed by all staff members so they fully understand the procedures it details. Without such a policy, the practice runs the risk of committing a HIPAA violation by illegally distributing patient records.

The MDA offers member dentists a sample policy to implement in their practices. It can be downloaded in the Legal Services section of the MDA website under Dental Records.

Michigan Donated Dental Services (DDS):
A “Feel Good” Opportunity for the Whole Staff

If your office is looking for a way to give back to the community in a meaningful way, consider becoming part of the Michigan Donated Dental Services (DDS) program.

The Michigan Donated Dental Services (DDS) program matches volunteer dental offices with patients who are elderly, suffer chronic illness, or have a permanent disability and have no other means to obtain dental care. Case coordinators pre-screen and interview patients to make sure they meet eligibility requirements and understand the value of the care you are providing them with.

As an added incentive, licensed dental staff participating in the program can earn CE credit for time spent treating patients. If lab fabrications or specialty services are needed, program coordinators handle securing those donated resources as well. Your office treats one patient at a time within your own office according to your usual office schedule and policies.

The Michigan Donated Dental Services (DDS) program is a great way to provide a meaningful experience in giving to local residents who are truly in need of your help. For more information or to volunteer, please contact: Karn Cornell at 517-346-9455 (southeast Michigan coordinator) or Domonique Brace at 517-346-9454.

Don’t Miss These Upcoming Front Office Seminars

The Michigan Dental Association is offering several upcoming courses that will not only benefit front office personnel, but also qualify for the MDA’s Certified Dental Business Professional program. Don’t miss these great courses! Office of the Inspector General: Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Prevention Requirements:

This live webinar on Wednesday, Jan. 23, provides an explanation of the Office of the Inspector General guidance for written Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Prevention policies in Medicare/Medicaid programs. Healthy Kids is a Medicaid initiative administered by Delta and Blue Cross. Both of these plans will ask participating providers to attest to complying with the OIG guidance, training staff, etc.


Communicating Across Generations at Work: Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Millennials: Coming to the MDA Spring Scientific Session on Saturday, March 9, this course helps dental office staff members equip themselves with practical strategies to deal with generational differences in the workplace. If you're a 28-year-old assistant, how do you establish credibility with a man old enough to be your grandpa? If the Baby Boomers have most of the good jobs in your practice, how do you keep your young people around? If you are significantly younger than everyone else on the team, how do you get them to listen?

Team Member Effectiveness: Taking Your Talents and Team to the Top: Also at the MDA Spring Scientific Session on Sunday, March 10, this course will convey the requirements necessary to build supportive teams that yield successful results, the tools for successful team meetings, the strategies of building successful teams, and more!


Online CE! Also available is an ever-growing list of MDA online CE opportunities that qualify for the CDBP program.