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Just like other medical professionals, dentists are exposed to a number of risks. Dangerous dental tools, risky procedures, and close physical contact with patients all increase a dentist’s risk for liability claims, which can come with huge legal and financial repercussions. It is essential to analyze these risks and make sure your business is financially protected from all sides with an extensive range of business insurance.
What insurance coverage do I need as a dentist?
There are many types of insurance coverage to consider, but these policies are particularly relevant to dentists:
Dental Malpractice Insurance
Dental malpractice insurance, also known as professional liability insurance, protects your business against lawsuits for any damages your patient experiences due to mistakes, negligence, or perceived failures in your work. Because your work involves complicated dental procedures, potentially dangerous tools, frequent use of anesthesia, and the ability to prescribe medication, you are at particularly high risk for liability claims.
You are also responsible for correctly diagnosing diseases and referring your patients to specialists. Even a single mishap can lead to a disastrous malpractice claim. Dental malpractice insurance can protect your business by covering your legal fees and any settlements or judgments against you in a malpractice suit.
- After a mistake during a dental implant procedure, your patient sustains severe nerve damage. The patient sues your dental office for medical negligence. Your dental malpractice insurance would cover the lawsuit and any resulting settlement.
General Liability Insurance
General liability insurance covers incidents of unintentional third-party property damage, bodily injury, personal injury, and advertising injury. Dentists have a number of patients in and out of their business premises each day, so it is essential to have this form of coverage for any unexpected incidents, such as a slip-and-fall incident. General liability insurance will protect your dental office by covering medical expenses and legal fees associated with these third-party claims.
Additionally, general liability insurance covers third-party bodily injury or property damage resulting from product liability. If your dental office sells any oral hygiene products to patients, you could be held liable if a patient is injured or becomes ill.
Finally, general liability insurance can protect your business from lawsuits based on non-physical injuries, such as claims of copyright infringement in advertising, slander, and libel.
- Bodily injury: A patient slips on some spilled mouthwash in your dental office. She sprains her wrist during the fall and requires medical attention. General liability insurance would pay for medical expenses and legal fees if the patient sues.
- Products and completed operations: The children’s toothbrushes sold at your dental office come with small, plastic toothbrush covers in the shape of animals. After a child chokes on the plastic animal, his parents sue your business and the product’s manufacturing company because the product did not come with a choking hazard warning.
- Personal and advertising injury: Your dental office releases a billboard ad with artwork of a tooth character that looks similar to an original design of a competing business. The competing dental office sues you for copyright infringement. Your insurer would pay for legal defense and any settlements.
Commercial Property Insurance
Your business relies heavily on your dental equipment and an open, functioning office location. As such, it is essential to purchase commercial property insurance to protect the value of your business’s property in the event of an unexpected disaster.
Commercial property insurance protects the value of your business’s property by providing funds for repairs and/or replacements if your property is damaged or destroyed by a covered peril. Common perils covered by commercial property insurance include fire, theft, vandalism, windstorm, and water damage.
- An intense hailstorm damages the roof of your dental office. Because a hailstorm is a covered peril in your commercial property insurance policy, your insurer will pay for the roof repairs.
Equipment Breakdown Insurance
Dentists require a number of sophisticated tools and equipment to conduct their work, so damage to that equipment has substantial consequences. Equipment breakdown insurance covers the repair or replacement of malfunctioned or damaged equipment.
The breakdown of equipment is not covered in a standard commercial property insurance policy. In order to fill this coverage gap, consider adding equipment breakdown insurance to your commercial property insurance policy as an endorsement or purchasing this insurance as a standalone policy.
- A utility power surge damages your dental office’s telephone system, which directly affects how your patients book their appointments. Your equipment breakdown insurance would provide funds to repair or replace the damaged telephone system and cover lost business income while the phones were out of commission.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Workers’ compensation insurance provides financial and medical benefits to your employees if they are injured or fall ill as a result of their work. Given the nature of dental work, your employees are at risk of a variety of workplace injuries, from repetitive strain injuries to radiation exposure.
Although gloves and masks are utilized for protection, the risk of contagious diseases remains high when working in such close proximity to a patient’s mouth. Additionally, exposure to various substances, adhesives, tools, and x-rays used in a dental office can result in a number of injuries.
Workers’ comp can also provide funeral, burial, and death benefits to dependents in the case of a work-related death.
- Due to the repetitive motions of her work, one of your employees develops carpal tunnel syndrome. Her doctor suggests an operation called carpal tunnel release. Your insurer would cover the medical costs as well as a portion of your employee’s lost wages while she recovers from her operation.
Cyber Liability Insurance
Cyber liability insurance financially protects your business against losses and damages stemming from cyberattacks such as hacks, data breaches, denial of service attacks, and viruses. Your dental office likely utilizes technology to store sensitive patient information regarding their health, so it is incredibly important to protect this information.
Commercial general liability and commercial property policies often exclude coverage for cyber liability. If your dental office experiences a cyberattack, the addition of this coverage can protect you from first-party losses and third-party legal claims.
- Your dental office suffers a data breach and the protected health data of your patients are stolen. Your cyber liability insurance would provide funds for legal fees and settlements should your patients sue you for this data breach. Additionally, your insurer would provide funds to hire a technical consultant to determine the extent of the breach.
- Business income insurance (also known as business interruption insurance) provides coverage for loss of income and operating expenses if your business must temporarily close to recover from physical loss, damage, or destruction by a covered peril. This coverage includes a business’s net profits and normal operating expenses such as rent, employee salaries, and taxes.
- Commercial crime insurance financially protects businesses from losses resulting from criminal acts. This includes forgery, robbery, burglary, theft, and employee dishonesty. Dentists keep gases, gold, and pharmaceuticals on the premises, and employees often have direct access to these items. As such, this coverage is important to consider with the potential for employee theft.
- Employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) provides financial protection for your business against lawsuits by current, past, or prospective employees accusing your business of wrongful treatment such as discrimination, harassment, or other employment-related issues.
Pricing and Quotes
Pricing for business insurance will vary based on the type of insurance coverage and the risk profile of your business. Insurers consider factors such as:
- Business size
- Number of employees
- Claims history
Businesses with higher risks will have higher premiums than those deemed lower risk. For example, a dentist with a history of frequent claims will face higher premiums. Premiums also rise as you increase the limits of insurance. Different insurance companies have different models for rating risks, so it is worth comparing pricing across different insurers.
In order to get an accurate estimate on pricing, it’s best to get a quote from a reputable insurance company. Below we’ve highlighted a few of our trusted partners who offer coverage for dental practices:
|Provider||General Liability||Professional Liability||Business Owner's Policy|
The maintenance of oral health is essential to the well-being of a community. However, even with the best of intentions, dentists face a number of liability issues on a daily basis. Although mistakes, disasters, and losses are impossible to completely control, dentists can actively protect their business by obtaining adequate business insurance in case any unexpected catastrophes come their way.