Whether you operate as a one- or two-person dental practice or employ a large team, you’ll need to work with your insurance professional to design a custom dentists policy, which addresses risk in four major categories of business ownership:

  • Property insurance – This covers your office space or building, as well as any property within, including equipment, furniture and fixtures. You should be ready with the estimated value for all of these items and report any upgrades or new purchases to make sure your policy keeps pace with your agreed-to limits.
  • General liability – If someone is injured while at your practice or their personal possessions are damaged, this type of insurance will pay restitution. These would be claims unrelated to dental care, only to loss or injury suffered while on your premises.
  • Business interruption – This insurance reimburses you for any lost earnings due to a covered property loss that temporarily halts your ability to work out of your practice space.
  • Employment practices liability – If one of your employees sues you for wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination or another employment complaint, this insurance provides repayment of any related legal fees or awarded judgment amounts.

While you can purchase any of the above policy types independently, if you group them under a single business owners policy, often shortened to “BOP,” you can typically get valuable savings.

Before you offer any services

Basic coverage is just the start. Don’t ask anyone to open wide until you have professional liability coverage, sometimes called dental malpractice insurance. This protects you if a patient accuses you of causing them harm due to negligence, misrepresentation or inaccurate advice. If you are sued, this policy covers any expenses or legal fees required for your defense, as well as any resulting judgments against you.

If your practice is incorporated, it is vital to also secure a corporate malpractice policy or a corporate endorsement on your own malpractice policy, as patients can sue both the individual dentist and the corporation. In addition, any associate dentists at your practice should carry their own separate professional liability insurance, as they are not covered by the corporate policy.

You should also confirm that your policy is not location specific if you sometimes sub for dentists at other offices or provide services somewhere other than your main office. If your policy does have this limitation, it may be possible to simply notify your insurance professional when these situations do occur so you can have adequate coverage applied.

Be aware that, if you do implants, this may impact which carriers are willing to write your professional liability policy, so be sure to mention this during policy selection. In addition, some state association or state risk pool malpractice insurance excludes coverage for “peer review defense.” This exclusion might not be highlighted, so be sure to check and know that adding it will lead to a higher premium. If you forgo this option, you would be personally responsible for any legal fees if you do face a peer review claim.

Additional factors

Every dental practice is unique, so consider your own operations before finalizing your insurance plan. Here are additional factors to consider:

  • Workers’ compensation – Even if this coverage is not required in your state, workers’ compensation is a wise investment and protects your practice if an employee is injured on the job. It pays for any work-related health care costs and lost income. If you buy your workers’ compensation through your state government, make sure “stopgap insurance” is included. It’s frequently left off government-issued policies. If an injured employee files a lawsuit, this is what covers the resulting legal fees or awarded damages.
  • Auto – If you or your employees use personal cars to run business errands – picking up supplies, delivering something to a patient, visiting a shipping or print store, or depositing a check at the bank – it’s wise to add automobile protection as an upgrade to your general liability coverage. Personal auto policies do not cover accidents that occur during business use, and if you don’t have commercial auto insurance, your practice will be left paying the bills.
  • Liquor legal liability rider – Many dental offices host holiday or staff parties where alcohol is served. Some purchase drinks for others after seminar sessions. If this is true for your practice, you’ll need this inexpensive but important addition to your general liability policy.
  • Independent contractors – If your practice relies on independent dental hygienists, associate dentists or other office staff, they will not be covered by your BOP, workers’ compensation, professional liability or other practice policies. They will need to maintain their own insurance, and it is sensible to include this stipulation in their working agreement and require proof of insurance. Because you could be named in a lawsuit based on their involvement with your practice, have your insurance professional provide the list of recommended policies you should require as a minimum.
  • Business overhead expense disability policy – As principal dentist and business owner, if your own extended sickness or injury prevents payment of the office operating expenses, this policy protects the practice (while your individual disability insurance protects your personal income).
  • Business interruption coverage – Some policies have narrowly defined business interruption coverage whose limits are lower than your average daily billing. Others cover closures of only a month or less or do not cover closures due to incidents outside of your immediate building or due to wider problems, such as a citywide loss of electricity. Review the details of your own policy to understand its limitations.
  • ERISA bond insurance – If your practice offers a pension or profit-sharing plan, this bond is required and must equal 10% of the plan’s funds to cover any losses due to criminal activity.
  • Data breach insurance – It’s likely that you store private employee and patient data on computers. If you suffer a data breach, this policy covers the considerable costs that may result, including those related to public relations and good faith advertising, notification services, ongoing credit monitoring, legal fees or damage payments.

Your commercial insurance advisor at JAISIN can identify other potential pitfalls based on your individual practice model, but this general overview of dental practice insurance can help start the conversation. After you’ve finalized a plan, just be sure to follow up with regular insurance checkups to make sure your coverage stays current with your growth.

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