Limitations for a General Dental Practice: Is Your Advertising Misleading?

As many successful dentists know, marketing your dental practice is vital to its success; you must get your name out there to reach and recruit new patients and maintain a thriving practice. But, it is always important for dentists to ensure that they are advertising within their limitations.

Generally, dentists may advertise their services as long as they are not misleading or their advertisements cannot be misinterpreted related to that dentist’s qualifications. For example, many general dentists advertise that they perform specialty services. This is certainly acceptable, as long as those general dentists do not limit their dental practice to any specific areas of practice. Thus, general dentists who perform specialty services should be especially cautious in their advertising, to ensure that they never refer to themselves as “specialists.” As a general rule, general dentists should refrain from advertising that they “specialize” in any service, unless they list the phrase “general dentist” as prominently as they advertise the specialty service in question. In some instances, potential patients may misinterpret a dentist’s advertisement and be mistaken as to that dentist’s actual certifications. If that patient files a complaint with their respective state dental board, that dentist could be placed under investigation based upon a potential violation of the Dental Practice Act. Similarly, specialists who employees general dentists should also refrain from any advertising that may imply that those general dentists are also specialists. General masters degrees unrelated to a dentist’s specialization may also be advertised, as long as the dentist makes it clear that he or she is a general dentist.

There are also cases in which dentists may receive licensing from a foreign residency programs not recognized by the American Dental Association (“ADA”). Although these dentists may be considered specialists in the countries in which they completed their programs, they are not considered specialists in the United States and thus should not market themselves as specialists. To be considered a specialist in the United States and to be able to market themselves as such, specialists must first meet all of the following requirements:

1. The indicated specialty is one for which there are certifying boards recognized by the American Dental Association;

2. The practice of the licensed dentist must be limited exclusively to the indicated specialty areas;

3. The licensed dentist has successfully completed a post-doctoral education program for each specialty;

4. The completed post-doctoral education program must be accredited by the American Dental Association or being held for either preliminary provisional approval or accreditation eligible status; and

5. The licensed dentist must be a diplomat of the national certifying board of an ADA recognized specialty.

To avoid potential problems associated with misleading advertisements, dentists should consult with their legal advisor or a member of their state dental board to ensure that they are properly advertising their dental services. We urge you to contact one of the dental attorneys at Nardone Limited in Columbus, Ohio, if you have any questions.