Record Retention

How long are dentists required to keep patient dental records?

According to Pennsylvania Regulations, Title 49 Pa Code § 33.209(b), “…A patient’s dental record must be maintained by a dentist for a minimum of five years from the date of the last dental entry.” However, neither the State Board of Dentistry nor HIPAA guidelines specify how these records are to be disposed of after the five-year timeframe. The American Dental Association advises members to use reasonable measures for the disposal of dental records.

If a dentist purchases the practice of a retiring or deceased dentist, is the new owner responsible for maintaining the existing records?

When a dental practice is purchased, the existing dental records become proprietary to the new owner. According to state regulations, the new dentist must maintain these records for a minimum of five years from the last dated entry, even if the new dentist did not provide the most recent services.

If a patient from a newly purchased dental practice decides to seek care elsewhere, can his or her original records be given to him or her?

If a patient decides to seek care at a different dental practice, SBOD requires the dentist to provide an exact copy of the patient’s dental records to the patient or the patient’s new dentist within 30 days of receiving a written request. This service can be provided free of charge or for a fee that reflects the cost of reproduction. The dentist providing the exact copy still must maintain the original records for five years from the date of the last dental entry.

PDA staff is happy to answer members’ queries about a variety of topics. If you have any questions, call (717) 234-5941 or send an email.