The What, When, and How of Requesting Your Dental Records

| 8 min read

Some things follow you around (or at least they should). For one, your reputation. And another could be when you need to request your dental records.

Depending on your tenure with a dentist or your dental care timeline the amount of information you obtain will vary. Whatever the case, a comprehensive record of your oral health history is both personal and essential to your ongoing oral health care.

What’s included in your dental records?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA) your dental records (or patient charts) cover the gamut of your appointment and treatment relationship with a dentist.

”The dental record, also referred to as the patient’s chart, is the official office document that records all of the treatment done and all patient related communications that occur in the dental office.

State and federal laws or regulations determine how it is handled, how long it is kept and who may have access to the information.

This record provides for continuity of care for the patient.” [1]

You can typically expect the following clinical data to be included in your dental records:

You should also be aware of the personal contact information that’s part of your patient file.

  • Name, address, and phone contact
  • Employment information
  • Notes about your personal health concerns or current issues

The personal health information you provide gives your dentist insight into any general health issues that could affect your oral health and the treatment you receive.

When it’s time to access your dental records

As you request your records keep in mind who actually “owns” your dental documents. According to the ADA your dental records are “legal documents owned by the dental office.” [3]

Even so, you have a right (yes, a right!) to gain access to your dental records.

Among a variety of situations the most common reason to request your dental record is when changing dental providers or seeking the services of another dentist.

  • Your dental records provide a big-picture perspective on your oral health care.
  • Your dental records helps your new or secondary provider understand your care timeline and any related risk factors.
  • Your dental records most often include x-rays and images that inform your next treatment. Available and current x-rays can also save you costs when engaging with a new or different dentist.

Now that you know you can access your records and why they’re useful, you’re likely interested in the next step.

How to access your dental records

Whether you’re making a change in providers or you want to seek the services of another dentist there are steps to follow for obtaining your patient file.

Know that the original file belongs to the dentist

Your rights only extend to a request for a copy of your records. As earlier mentioned, the dentist is the sole owner of the original documents.

Also be aware of the dental office’s process for a records request. They could require a completed form and/or a direct request from your new or additional provider.

Clarify your state’s requirements

Some states have certain protocols for how to obtain dental records. And there could be fees associated with records access.

In most instances a hard copy of your records will incur a fee for printing, mailing, etc. Keep in mind that depending on your tenure with a particular dentist, your records could be extensive.

Typically, an electronic or digital copy of your records is cost-free and more easily obtained.

Follow privacy and protection safeguards

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) provides security for medical and dental records. Your dentist (like your physician) is required to follow privacy protocols related to your personal and oral health information.

Because of HIPAA you are the only person (aside from your designated provider) with the right to the contents of your dental records.

  • You can request a copy of your dental records.
  • You can request that corrections be made to your dental records.
  • You can ask how your information is/was being used and/or shared - including the purpose for doing so.
  • You can decide whether your health information is shared beyond your trusted provider.

Virtual dental care utilizing an online dentist is an occasion that could require your dental records. provides second opinion solutions that make effective use of your patient information and the process for acquiring and sharing your dental records file.

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