How we investigate public protection issues or concerns

Our public protection role includes investigating serious concerns about the clinical practice, behaviour or health of dental professionals. Where we find that a dental professional has fallen short of our standards, we will take action to protect the public. 

We cannot resolve complaints, mediate civil disputes or order the payment of compensation or a refund. If you have a complaint about dental services or treatment see our step by step guide.

Our investigations follow a series of stages, and are designed to ensure fairness to all those involved. The different stages are set out below. We aim to complete the assessment stage within six months from the date an issue is reported, and eight months for cases that proceed to case examiners for a decision. 

Serious or immediate risks

It may be necessary to impose an interim order to restrict a dental professional’s registration while an investigation takes place.  

The Interim Orders Committee at the Dental Professionals Hearing Service will assess any serious or immediate risks to public safety or confidence and decide if an interim order is necessary. A referral can be made at any stage, and the committee may decide that no action is needed.  

Any restrictions on registration are recorded on the Register.

Stage 1: Initial assessment

We make an initial assessment and decide if there are any issues that could affect patient safety or public confidence in the dental professions. Where there are issues that require investigation, we open a case.

We check to make sure we are the right organisation to investigate at the initial assessment stage. We refer matters to other organisations where they are best placed to make further inquiries.

We will not open a case for issues that do not need further inquiry, and will tell the person who reported it the reasons for our decision. We do not inform the dental professional involved in these circumstances.

Stage 2: Assessment stage

Cases opened are referred to the assessment stage, which involves:

  • informing the dental professional involved
  • collecting information relevant to the case, including patient records and clinical advice when needed
  • gathering any other relevant information, such as medical reports in cases about health conditions or police reports relating to any criminal offence.

When we have all the relevant information, we review it and make a decision to either:

  • close the case and take no further action
  • refer it to case examiners for a decision.

Cases are referred if there is an allegation that a dental professional’s fitness to practise may be impaired. No decision is made on whether or not an allegation is true at this stage.

Stage 3: Case examiners stage

Case examiners consider allegations alongside all relevant information at this stage, including any comments from the dental professional involved and the person who raised the matter. Those involved will receive a copy of the information being considered (sensitive health information is not shared).

You can find more information about what happens at a hearing and listings of hearings and decisions on the Dental Professionals Hearings Service website