GDC professional standards for the dental team




The General Dental Council outlines a number of ‘standards’ for registered dentists to follow - but what are the GDC standards for the dental team?

From GDC website: The 9 GDC standards, which have equal importance, are:

  • Put patients’ interests first
  • Communicate effectively with patients
  • Obtain valid consent
  • Maintain and protect patients’ information
  • Have a clear and effective complaints procedure
  • Work with colleagues in a way that is in patients’ best interests
  • Maintain, develop and work within your professional knowledge and skills
  • Raise concerns if patients are at risk
  • Make sure your personal behaviour maintains patients’ confidence in you and the dental 

These should be followed by both you and your entire dental team.

GDC professional standards for the dental team and our experience with clients

Whilst the GDC guidance covers a broad range of professional issues, in our experience practicing dentists have complaints and or claims made against them out of dissatisfaction, often the cause of which is a misunderstanding of expectations and poor documentation evidencing informed consent.

A very common situation is alleged dissatisfaction being used as a lever to reduce treatment fees. 

Of all the 9 GDC professional standards that gives rise to most complaints/claims’ activity is the area of valid consent.

In over 30 years of dealing with the medical professions, more claims arise over consent than any other area of activity by a wide margin.

Claimant solicitors trawling for work concentrate on consent as a priority. Poor documentation and a lack of quantification of benefits over risks provide a happy hunting ground for them. In our experience many more cases are lost by poor documentation within dental records than claimants proving their cases in other areas. This is the area where there are most unforced errors. 

GDC client case study: anxious patients

Two recent cases where we have dealt with requests for notes have a common theme: 

Female patients who described themselves as anxious or very anxious.

Downplaying the risks

If the notes reflect accurately (and I am sure they do) the tone of the consultation, the Dentist has naturally tried to be as reassuring as possible. That has led to a lowering of the forensic guard. In both cases there was a failure to quantify the risks, presumably to lessen the anxiety.

Allegations of negligence

Both cases led to requests for notes with accompanying allegations of negligence, on for the treatment itself and the other for unnecessary treatment.

Quantification of risks

The Dentist is doing himself and his patient no favours by “sugaring the pill”. Hindsight is very good at identifying the line between sympathy and the patient’s concern over the standard of treatment. Both episodes were consented in detailed (risks v benefits). However, there wasn’t the quantification of risks that a belt and braces approach would have secured.


We are not saying the cases are indefensible. We suspect quantification would have tipped the balance in favour of a request for notes NOT being made. Professionalism does not demand the abandonment of sympathy, but this must not be at the expense of forensic defensibility…  

If ever there is an area of activity where a problem avoided is better than one overcome, this is it.

To discuss any or all of the information above, please contact us.

Read On

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