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Complaints Process: Registrant FAQ

On 14 October 2015, CDSBC hosted a Registrant Information Session on complaints and discipline to address concerns and misconceptions about CDSBC's complaint process. Click here for more information & to view a webcast of the session >>

Download the Complaint & Discipline Information Sheet (PDF)

Registrant FAQ

  1. How can I avoid getting a complaint?
  2. There is a complaint against me. What should I do?
  3. What is my role in the process as the subject of a complaint?
  4. Who must I allow to access my patient records?
  5. Is the complaints process the same for dentists, dental therapists and CDAs?
  6. To what standard are dentists held during a complaint investigation?
  7. What kind of outcome/resolution can I expect?
  8. Is the complaints process confidential?
  9. Will information about my complaint be made public?



1. How can I avoid getting a complaint? 

There are proactive steps you can take to help you avoid being the subject of a complaint. Learn more about preventing complaints before they happen

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2. There is a complaint against me. What should I do? 

Chances are you will get a complaint at some point in your career. There are five important steps to help you deal with a complaint made against you.

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3. What is my role in the process as the subject of a complaint?

The registrant is usually asked to provide a written response to the complaint along with the patient records. Any other dentists involved in the patient’s care may also be asked to provide a report and records. The response will be provided to the complainant.

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4. Who must I allow to access my patient records?

Many complaints that CDSBC receives include concerns about patient access to records. Patients own the information contained in their patient chart and have the right by law to access a copy of their complete dental record. You are obligated by law to provide copies of what the patient has requested, including radiographs, study models and photographs. Dental offices may charge a reasonable fee to cover the cost of duplicating the records.

Patient records cannot be withheld when a patient owes money for dental work. Fee disputes or other disagreements between a patient and dentist are not grounds to withhold access to, or transfer of, patient records.

Patient records must also be provided if another dental office requests them. The originating dentist has the option to provide a complete copy of the records or send the originals to the new office with a request that the records be copied and returned. It is important for the originating dentist to keep a copy of the patient records. Not only is this required by law, complete records can protect registrants if a complaint is launched in future.

For more information about ownership, transfer and retention of dental records, please see CDSBC’s Dental Recordkeeping Guidelines (PDF).

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5. Is the complaints process the same for all registrants (dentists, dental therapists and CDAs)?

Under the CDSBC Bylaws, the same investigation and discipline processes apply to all registrants (dentists, dental therapists and CDAs). Learn how a complaint is resolved.

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6. To what standard are dentists held during a complaint investigation?

The standard is the level of skill and care that a reasonable and competent dentist would be expected to demonstrate when treating patients. It is based on what is taught in accredited dental schools, scientific literature and research, accreditation and certification standards established by the profession, together with the wider pool of knowledge held by practitioners.

The standard is not perfection. But it does reflect the public’s expectation that those who have been granted entry to a self-governing profession are competent, ethical professionals who keep up to date with changes in their field of practice. Further, part of being a professional is recognizing your limitations and, when appropriate, referring patients to others who are more experienced, and in some cases, have specialty training.

That said, the College recognizes that “things happen.” A dentist who is the subject of a specific complaint where the treatment outcome is less than ideal is not judged in isolation on that treatment outcome alone. The investigation considers the context, including factors such as informed consent, recordkeeping, clinical skill/judgment and how the practitioner managed the outcome.

As a group, CDSBC’s team of complaint investigators reviews hundreds of cases each year. They gather all relevant data --conducting interviews, reviewing documents and analyzing records and radiographs –in order to prepare their reports. Those reports are then peer reviewed internally before submission to the Inquiry Committee. That committee directs the investigation and decides how each complaint will be resolved. The Inquiry Committee is composed primarily of dentists.

Several of CDSBC’s complaint investigators also serve as examiners for the National Dental Examining Board. Through this process, which involves liaising with colleagues from other provinces, they enhance their understanding of current clinical standards.

7. What type of outcome/resolution can I expect? 

Resolution options include: a) close the complaint with no action taken, or with some recommendations/best practice advice; or b) ask the registrant to sign an agreement to take certain steps to improve their practice (such as taking certain courses to improve skills) or to be mentored by another registrant for a period of time. 

After the investigation, the Inquiry Committee receives the report and recommendations for resolution from the complaints team and makes its decision. The majority of complaints are resolved at this stage. Complaints only proceed if the registrant asks to appear before the Inquiry Committee, or if the Committee directs that a citation (notice of hearing) be issued against the registrant.

If concerns about a registrant’s practice are identified, CDSBC takes a remedial and collaborative approach to resolving those concerns. All complaints resolved without a citation happen by consent. Learn more about the complaint resolution process.

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8. Is the complaints process confidential?

While CDSBC makes every effort to ensure complaints are kept confidential, it cannot guarantee confidentiality. Our records are subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and may be disclosed to other persons whose interests may be affected. Note that if a complaint results in disciplinary action being taken, the outcome may become public.

If a complainant applied to the HPRB for a review of CDSBC’s investigation and/or disposition, the complainant normally will receive a complete copy of the investigation, although there is a limited ability to withhold information or ask the HPRB to redact it or withhold it from the complainant.

A copy of the response that a registrant provides to a complaint will, in most cases, be provided to the complainant.

Under the HPA, any information or documents that a complainant receives from CDSBC during a complaint investigation must be kept private and cannot be used for any other purpose, including legal proceedings against you.

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9. Will information about my complaint outcome be made public?

CDSBC publishes the outcomes of its complaint and discipline processes. Generally, the publication is anonymous; however, when the complaint involves a serious matter or results in disciplinary action being taken, CDSBC may be required to publish named information about a registrant.

Learn more about the publication of CDSBC’s complaints and discipline outcomes.

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Avoiding Complaints
Ten steps to help you avoid being the subject of a complaint.

Dealing with a Complaint
Five steps to help you deal with a complaint made against you.

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