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Dental jurisprudence is an area of the law pertaining to dental practice. It is a subset of medical jurisprudence, the laws covering medical practice in general, including legal requirements for patient safety, ethical boundaries, and related matters. While in dental school, practitioners receive training in relevant areas of the law to make sure they comply with it once they start working. Attorneys specializing in dental jurisprudence work in fields like medical malpractice, advising both dentists and patients about their rights under the law.
One important area of dental jurisprudence is the licensing requirements for dentists. These requirements ensure that everyone practicing dentistry meets some basic standards, protecting the health and safety of people who seek dental care. Dentists usually need to complete dental school and clinical training before they can apply to take a licensing exam, and must maintain licensure with continuing education. Periodically the license comes up for renewal and the dentist needs to submit proof that she still qualifies to practice dentistry in a given region.
Other laws address basic health and safety measures. Dentists must maintain clean working conditions in clinics, hospitals, and other settings. The law covers topics like making bathrooms available, keeping clinics accessible to people with disabilities, and maintaining qualified staff members. While individual dentists may have their own office procedures, they must fall within the guidelines set out by law.
Medical ethics is another important area of dental jurisprudence. Dentists need to secure patient records so unauthorized personnel cannot access them, and must make sure their patients have an opportunity to exercise informed consent before any procedures take place. When dealing with underage or incapacitated patients, the dentist needs to receive permission from the patient's guardian or parent. All the personnel at a dental clinic also need to abide by basic medical ethics, including everything from not disclosing the identities of patients to reporting health and safety concerns to relevant government officials.
Attorneys who focus on dental jurisprudence can assist legislators and dental service organizations with the preparation of new laws and revision of existing ones. They can also offer their services in cases where people sue dentists for medical malpractice, either defending the dentist or pressing the case for the plaintiff. This legal expertise can also be valuable for topics like establishing legal partnerships and financial interests in dental clinics, helping dentists address code violations, and assisting a clinic with the creation of legally sound procedures for handling patient files and other confidential material.
I have a friend who is going to school to become a dentist, and he finds this part of the coursework to be very boring. Though he understands the importance of knowing how dental jurisprudence relates to practicing dentistry, his passion is working with patients and on their teeth.
His advice to students in any field of study is to learn the law of the field they are going into. Without this understanding, professionals could be at risk of lawsuits.
For those students who do not enjoy studying law, he says that pacing themselves and studying extra hard to get through the coursework are the keys to success in dentistry or any career field.
Anyone who is planning on going into the field of dentistry should take a class on dental jurisprudence. I think that most dental programs require this type of course so students understand laws of dentistry. If it's not a required course, it should be because it is important to understand the law and how it pertains to patients and malpractice.
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