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Maintaining Proper Dental Records

Wilhemina Leeuw, MS, CDA

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There are many different types of records in the dental office.  How a record is stored and used depends on its type.  Generally, records can be categorized as vital, important, useful, and unimportant.

Vital records are essential documents that cannot be replaced and, therefore, highly protected.  The patient record falls within this category along with office deed and mortgage paperwork.  These documents should be maintained in fireproof cabinets for utmost safety.  If the office has electronic records, these must be backed up often for document safety and integrity.

Important records are valuable to the operation of the office.  Examples of these documents will include accounting information, inventory records, and federal regulatory paperwork.  These documents must be kept for 5–7 years.

Useful records are harder to define as each office may decide differently on what it and is not important.  Examples of these may include employment application, petty cash receipts, and bank reconciliations.  When an office decides that it is considered a useful document, these are usually stored for 1–3 years.

Unimportant paperwork will consist of outdated memos and announcements, and meeting reminders.  Common sense dictates when these items should be disposed.

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