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Features / August 8, 2023

Compliance advice

by Jane Renehan

Compliance advice

Jane Renehan answers a reader’s question on how to get started with compliance.

The question – Dear Jane…

In recent months I opened a new dental practice. 

I’m working single-handedly at the moment, but over time I have plans to expand the size of the practice. 

With the new build, purchase of equipment, recruiting staff and so on, there was no time to focus on compliance matters. To be honest, I find even thinking about regulation very stressful. Can you give me some advice on how to get started?


Dr D

The answer

First off, congratulations on opening your new practice! Secondly, you are not alone. In my experience, most dentists find compliance very stressful. Our undergraduate training does not include much on running a business. However, we are trained to operate within a multitude of clinical processes and compliance is just another process.

Start your compliance journey as you mean to go on! 

Begin by gathering all your documentation together. Items such as operator manuals, installation reports, radiation risk assessments and quality assurance reports, chemical safety data sheets, training records etc should be gathered. Now divide these documents into your new compliance folders under the headings:

  • Health and safety
  • Radiation protection
  • Infection control
  • Staff training.

Make a list of what’s missing under each heading. 

Set out your schedule of tasks to correct any gaps in documentation such as practice policies, clinical protocols, and internal audits. 

I recommend new practices begin by getting their safety statement in order. Ensure that you engage a competent person to draw up your safety statement. Remember, you are both a business and a healthcare facility.  Workplace hazards need to be addressed as well as healthcare risks.  

Dental hazards fall under four headings: 

  • Physical
  • Chemical
  • Biological agents
  • Psychosocial. 

Your competent person should ensure you have risk assessments under these four headings.

The next item you should address is understanding your equipment. This may seem an obvious statement, but items such as routine testing and in-house maintenance can often be misunderstood or neglected. 

The equipment instruction manuals are a treasure trove of information. Nowadays, you may have to download these from the manufacturer’s website, but get a hard copy for critical items such as X-ray equipment, ultrasonic baths, autoclaves, compressors, suction motors, hand pieces, and intraoral scanners. 

Regular in-house maintenance, as prescribed by the manufacturer, will reduce the need for servicing over the lifetime of your equipment and keep the operation of the item compliant. 

Never be afraid to ask a question. Always read the reports from your service engineers, radiation protection adviser, and safety consultant. If you don’t understand something in the report, ask for clarification. 

Lastly, doing all of this on your own can be stressful, so I urge you to get your staff involved. By sharing the compliance load, you will promote a compliance culture that will continue as your practice grows. 

Schedule a compliance review at least twice a year. It should take no more than two to three hours, during which you revisit the compliance folders, update your compliance to-do tasks, and confirm that your practice protocols and procedures are up to date. 

A compliant practice provides high-quality dental care, and is much appreciated by satisfied patients and happy staff. 

Best of luck!  

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