In 2009 Minnesota was one of the first states to allow the practice of dental therapy.  Dental therapists are permitted to practice specific dental services under the supervision of a licensed dentist.  There are other limitations placed on dental therapists but this article will focus on limiting a dentist’s liability when collaborating with a dental therapist. 


Scope of Work


Under Minnesota state law a dental therapist is able to work under the supervision of a licensed dentist.  Much of the work performed by a dental therapist can be performed without direct supervision of a licensed dentist, and in many cases without a dentist present in the office.  A dentist can, however, elect to limit the work a dental therapist is permitted to perform, or specify the degree of supervision required.  Any limitations need to be specified in the collaborative management agreement.


The Collaborative Management Agreement


A dentist that hires a dental therapist is required to enter into a collaborative management agreement with each dental therapist hired.  Collaborative management agreement must be submitted to the Minnesota Board of Dentistry.  The agreement must be renewed with the Minnesota Board of Dentistry annually.  This requirement gives the dentist and dental therapist the opportunity to review the agreement annually and update annually.


Minnesota state law dictates most of the information in the collaborative management agreement.  The collaborative management agreement is intended to provide guidance for structuring the working relationship between the dentist and the dental therapist.  One of the most important sections of the collaborative management agreement is section 2.  Section 2 allows limitations to be placed on the services and degree of supervision required for a dental therapist.  It is important to remember the statutory default allows a dental therapist to practice the statutorily specified services under minimal supervision.  If limitations are desired, be sure to explicitly state the limitations in the collaborative management agreement. 


Impact on Professional Liability


A dentist is responsible for the action of any dental therapist practicing under their supervision.  Minnesota law does not require a dental therapist to carry his or her own professional liability insurance.  The dentist is responsible for any services performed by a dental therapist that are permitted under the collaborative management agreement.  As a result, it is important to state any limitations in the collaborative management agreement if there is any concern about the abilities of a dental therapist.  Each professional liability insurance policy will operate differently, so check the limits of coverage before hiring a dental therapist.  It may be beneficial to require dental therapists to carry professional liability insurance of their own.


The collaborative management agreement is the first step in limiting liability for the services provided by a dental therapist.  If there are any concerns regarding the abilities of a dental therapist, the scope of the services they can provide should be specifically stated in the collaborative management agreement.  Be sure to explicitly state the services the therapist is permitted to perform and under what degree of supervision.  Crafting the collaborative management agreement may take some time but it can prevent possible unforeseen issues in the future. 


Expanding business while limiting liability is the key to success.  Don’t have time, or are unsure about your collaborative management agreement?  The attorneys at Loop Legal can help navigate the often rocky waters of hiring new employees.  Reach out to learn how we can help protect your business through the hiring process.