Working in a busy dental practice means having policies in place - and keeping them up to date. Here's our advice on how to approach your practice policies.

Clinical governance is a fundamental part of our daily clinical practice as dental professionals, and it applies to both NHS and private dental practice.

Guidance and leadership in aspects of clinical governance usually fall to the senior members of the dental team. In most primary care dental practices, practice principals, practice owners or practice managers are responsible for ensuring everyone's compliance with clinical governance.

Dental regulation aims to ensure that dental treatment in the UK is provided in the patient's best interests and to a high, safe standard. The policies and procedures in your practice offer a framework for the entire dental team, and should be understood and followed by everyone.

Another key aspect of ensuring that high quality clinical care is delivered is having appropriate training, skills, competence and confidence. Practice policies will provide not only a reference for clinical care - for example, guidance on consent and confidentiality - but also for health and safety, quality assurance, human resources and education and training.

Regulations, legislation and skills all get revised from time to time, so it's crucial that the practice policies and procedures that reflect these requirements are kept up to date and regularly reviewed by the whole team.

Updating your policies: an example

As dental professionals, we should be aware of our roles and responsibilities when it comes to child protection and safeguarding. Most of us are familiar with protecting children against exploitation and are skilled at recognising signs of child abuse.

More recently, the importance of recognising and respecting children's rights when considering access to oral health care has been addressed by the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD).

So what does this update mean for members of the dental team? Questions to consider may include:

  • how can we practically promote children's rights within our own practices?
  • how can we ensure that young people receive the highest standard of oral care?
  • is our practice environment welcoming to children?
  • how well do we talk and interact with children/young people as a team?
  • are we confident and competent when treating children, and is everyone up to date with new techniques and best practice?
  • do we provide information for children in a manner that they can understand?
  • have we all had relevant and appropriate training in communication, learning difficulties and autism?
  • do we have mechanisms in place for children to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement?

The BSPD, with input from the BDA, NSPCC and UNICEF UK, have produced a factsheet called Rights from the Start to help raise awareness of children's rights. This may be a useful resource to distribute in your team. A staff meeting to discuss these points might be beneficial as well, where you can collectively discuss if any aspects of your day-to-day clinical practice need to change.

My top tips

Running and managing a dental practice can be time consuming, and as a practice principal and owner myself, I'm aware of the challenges we face. But while compliance with dental regulation is mandatory, there are several things we can do to balance our workloads.

Invest in team training

Adequate and appropriate training can be delivered in an interactive and engaging way.

Empower the team

Ask for constructive feedback on practice policies and procedures. Check that all members of the team understand the policies and procedures and don't simply sign them as a 'tick box' exercise.

Delegate responsibility

Encourage colleagues and team members to feel valued by delegating responsibility to make sure practice policies and procedures are kept up to date and reviewed regularly.

Induction and recruitment

Ensure a comprehensive induction and training programme for all new starters so they become embedded in the team culture from the start.

Use available resources

Consider instructing a dental compliance company to guarantee your practice policies and procedures are kept up to date.

The policies and procedures in your practice offer a framework for the entire dental team, and should be understood and followed by everyone.

How can the DDU help?

At the DDU, we know it can be a challenge to confidently navigate changing clinical and governmental guidance and we understand the pressures dental professionals face.

Calling our dento-legal helpline is free, doesn't affect your subscription, and can help make sure you receive advice, assistance and support when you need it. Our team is led and staffed by dentists with real-life experience of the challenges faced by the profession.

One of the additional benefits of DDU membership is the Peninsula employment law advice service for practice owners, which offers access to expert guidance on a range of employment-related issues to help run your practice.

We also provide vicarious liability for practice owners for the acts or omissions of associates, employed dentists and dental care professionals.


British Society of Paediatric Dentistry

Care Quality Commission Regulation 17: Good Governance

This page was correct at publication on 18/03/2024. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.