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Complaint Summaries

CDSBC publishes annual summaries of the complaint files that required the registrant to take action to address concerns found during the investigation. This is beyond the publication requirements outlined in the Health Professions Act.

CDSBC makes this information publicly available to help educate the public and our registrants about the types of complaints received and how they are resolved. We hope these summaries help registrants proactively avoid complaints by understanding what they should do to prevent similar situations in their own practice.

Most complaints are made by patients or family members of patients; however, CDSBC also receives complaints from dentists, other dental professionals, other health care providers, and insurance companies.

Specific and technical detail has been omitted from the individual case summaries to make them more easily understood by a general audience.

More complaint information can be found in the Annual Report.


Summaries for files closed with action taken to address concerns


General themes for files closed without formal action

The majority of complaint files are closed without formal action being required of the registrant, though in many cases the College gives the dentist recommendations to improve his or her practice. General themes found in these complaints are provided below.

Recordkeeping – The most frequent recommendation made is that dentists need to improve their records to capture discussions with patients. In particular, dentists must properly document all treatment planning and informed consent discussions.

Communication – Poor communication is a major cause of patient complaints. Many complaints could have been avoided if the dentist had taken more time to explain and ensure that the patient understood the treatment plan. In several cases the patient did not understand that their treatment plan would involve multiple follow-up appointments for adjustments or additional care (such as patients receiving dentures, implants, or orthodontic treatment).

Patients should clearly understand all stages of their treatment plan and why the proposed treatment is necessary in advance of any work being undertaken.

Variations in treatment plans – Patients justifiably complain when they receive very different diagnoses and proposed treatment plans from two or more dentists. In most cases, these differences are the result of different treatment philosophies held by the dentists. This needs to be explained to patients so that fully informed consent can be given.

Problems can be avoided by the dentist explaining all options – including the option of no treatment – the cost associated with each, and then letting the patient decide.

Role of office staff – Complaints are caused by dentists improperly delegating responsibility to staff, often related to billing. Dentists are responsible for the actions of their staff, and matters such as dental advice cannot be delegated to non-dentists.

Associate dentists – Particular problems arise in practices where associate dentists do not have fee discussions with patients. Associate dentists have an obligation to obtain the patient’s informed consent, which includes an understanding of all options and their associated costs. Complaints were also caused when associates were terminated from an office, but the patient was not informed.

Comments from other dentists – Some complaints were caused by a subsequent-treating dentist making disparaging comments or conveying alarm about the quality of dental work provided by a fellow dentist. Often the complaint investigation indicated no sub-standard treatment by the first dentist. In these cases, the file was closed against the first treating dentist, and a separate file was opened against the second dentist for making inappropriate comments. Dentists are reminded that their first step should be to contact the prior dentist to discuss any areas of concern – it may well be that there is a reason why the condition persists.