Some things you hear at the dentist don't surprise you: You have more plaque buildup or (yuck!) you have a new cavity. On a more positive note, you might hear your teeth look fine. But what you might not expect to hear is that your dentist—your longtime dentist—is retiring.
Then again, it might be you telling your dentist you're moving to another city—or you just feel like it's time for a change. Whatever the reason, there could come a time when you must find a new dental care provider. And when you do, it's very important that your dental records go with you.
And, yes, your dentist does have such records on you. Just like medical physicians, they're obligated legally and professionally to maintain a formal record of all your visits and treatments (including all your x-ray films). They may also include notations on your other health conditions and medications that could impact your dental care.
Without those records, your new dentist essentially starts from scratch, depending on what you tell them and what they may ascertain from examining your mouth. It means new x-rays and new treatment plans that can take time to form. But with your old records in hand, dental care with your new dentist hardly misses a beat.
Technically, those records belong to your dentist. You are, however, legally entitled to view them and to obtain a copy, although you may have to reimburse the dentist for printing and mailing costs. Usually, though, you can simply request they be transmitted to your new dentist, which can often be done electronically.
But what if, for whatever reason, you're not comfortable asking for your records from your former dentist? In that case, you can ask your new dentist to request them. Even if you still have an outstanding balance with your former dentist's office, they can't refuse a transfer request.
HIPAA regulations require dental offices to retain adult patient records for at least six years. But don't wait that long! The sooner your dental records are in the hands of your new dentist, the less likely your dental care hits any speed bumps.
If you would like more information on the importance of your dental records, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Why Your Dental Records Should Follow You.”