The Responsibilities of a Dental Director

The Massachusetts Dental Regulations in effect as of August, 2010 require specifically in 234 CMR 5.02(3) (under general requirements for the conduct of a dental practice in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations) that “The owner(s) of a dental practice where any non-owner practices dentistry shall designate a dentist who holds a valid license pursuant to M.G.L. c. 112 Sec. 45 to act as Dental Director.” That means that essentially whenever a dental practice has an associate who isn’t an owner, one licensed dentist must be named to have overall responsibility for supervision of the practice to ensure that dental regulations and other laws are met, and thus in essence formally supervises the non-owner associates.

With the increasing trend towards employment of younger dentists or associates who are just getting involved in practices until they may in the future become owners, or working just as employees of corporate dental practices to earn a salary, this requirement more often comes into play. Also, if a non-dentist owner is involved in the ownership of a practice, a Dental Director must be named.

So what are the responsibilities of the designated Dental Director? First, the name of the Dental Director must be posted at a practice in a notice patients can see easily at the office. The Dental Director is responsible for the implementation of policies and procedures that will ensure compliance with local ordinances and state and federal regulations having to do with the practice of dentistry.   Examples of the numerous statutes and regulations So what are the responsibilities of the designated Dental Director? First, the name of the Dental Director must be posted at a practice in a notice patients can see easily at the office. The Dental Director is responsible for the implementation of policies and procedures that will ensure compliance with local ordinances and state and federal regulations having to do with the practice of dentistry. Examples of the numerous statutes and regulations involved are listed in the Dental Regulations, though it is noted that it is not an exclusive list. Below are the eleven regulations specifically mentioned in the Regulations:

  • Licensure and qualifications of dentists and dental auxiliaries;
  • Delegation of duties to dental auxiliaries pursuant to 234 CMR 2.00;
  • Anesthesia administration as permitted by the Board;
  • State and federal controlled substances rules and regulations;
  • CDC Guidelines; including weekly spore testing;
  • OSHA standards;
  • Radiation control requirements;
  • Posting dental licenses in the practice;
  • Advertising dental services or fees;
  • Schedule of equipment and drugs to ensure timely inspections, maintenance and current drugs; and
  • Compliance with applicable local, state and federal regulations and statutes, including but not limited to, occupancy codes, fire safety codes, and disposal of hazardous waste.

The Regulations make it clear the Dental Director’s responsibilities for ensuring that all these regulations are complied with does not absolve any dentist, owner or other licensed dentist, from responsibility for complying with all the regulations.   It establishes, however, someone who the Board of Registration in Dentistry or federal agency such as OSHA or the CDC can go to in case there is a complaint of a violation by anyone in the practice. Normally that would be the owner, but if an associate or employee who is a non-owner is treating patients, someone with the Dental Director position has that responsibility. The owner can be the Dental Director also. When a dental practice incorporates state documents require at least one licensed dentist to be named by the Board.

In some states patients who claim poor treatment by corporate dental practices have filed lawsuits when the dentist that is named to the position of a licensed dentist in charge of multiple practices is actually located off-site.   The control of the treatment of patients has been determined in these cases to be too much subject to goals of profit versus quality of dentistry.   The Dental Director, if on-site, can prevent this situation from happening.



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