Contemporary medico-legal dental radiology


Brad Wright
Bennett Chambers
Level 6
107 North Quay
Brisbane QLD 4000


The advent of extraoral radiology in general dental practice has become more widespread since 2000, particularly with digital systems. With this comes a range of medico-legal risks for dentists not adverted to previously.

These risks include a higher than expected radiation dose for some surveys, and the risk of a ‘loss of a chance’ for a patient whereby the images may disclose pathology not diagnosed by general dental practitioners using OPG and CBVT radiology.

Practitioners need to apply relevant legal principles in deciding which surveys to order and record, and also need to explain to patients the dosages of the radiation that they will likely receive. Practitioners also need to assess whether the resultant survey ought to be interpreted by a radiologist to diagnose any wider pathology with which a general practitioner may not be familiar. Extra caution needs to be used in ordering high dose radiology in paediatric patients.

Dentists should not assume patients fully understand the nature of CBVT and MCT, and its risks and benefits. Consideration ought to be given to the volume of CBVT ordered dependent on factors such as patient age, symptoms, history and procedural intent.