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Malpractice 101!

By Jerri Wildhaber

June 29, 2023

Malpractice insurance as a dentist seems like a given you must have, so you just buy it … right? What do you base your selection on? Price? Coverage? Carrier? It can be all three, but you do need to know what you are buying and who you are buying it from. Each carrier has its own underwriting rules and guidelines they work within to rate your coverage. Let’s look at some of the things you must select in your policy when applying.


You typically have two options: claims-made or occurrence coverage.

Occurrence: This type of policy reacts to a claim filed by date the procedure was performed. For example, if a claim was filed against the doctor in 2022, but treatment was in 2020, your 2020 policy coverage is going to be triggered (if coverage was active). Think of each policy year as a box on a shelf that has your limits in it, and if a claim is filed for that treatment year, they will pull that box down to see what limits you have to work with. Essentially, you will have a lot of boxes over time for all the years practiced and covered by malpractice insurance. I suggest this policy type.

Claims-made: This type of policy reacts to a claim filed by the policy year the claim was made against you. For example, if a claim is filed in 2021 for treatment from 2019, your 2021 policy coverage will be triggered (as long as the retroactive date of the policy is before the treatment date). A tail endorsement is needed when a claims-made policy is cancelled to cover any claims that are filed against you after cancellation for when the policy was active. With claims-made, there would only ever be one box on the shelf, because the policy reacts the year the claim is made, because only one policy can be active at a time.


Many limits are available and vary based on the carrier. The most common selected is $2 million (per occurrence)/$4 million (annual aggregate). Higher limits can be available as well as lower, but a great starting point is the $2 million/$4 million. I do not recommend having limits of less than $1 million/$3 million.


There are many options for discounts, and you always want to make sure you are taking advantage of them.

New-to-Practice Discount: New grads can get up to a 75 percent discount their first year out of dental school or in a residency program (if entered into directly after dental school). Also available is an additional discount your first year out if you were a member of ASDA while in dental school. MDA member new grads who are new to practice and members of the MDA may be eligible to get their first year of dental malpractice insurance at no cost, courtesy of the MDA if you qualify.

  • Moonlighting During Residency Discount: While you are in a residency program, a discount can be applied for moonlighting in a private practice.
  • Part-Time Hours Discount: When working only 20 hours or fewer per week, you are considered part-time employed and can get a discount on your policy. Anything more than 20 hours is considered full-time status.
  • Leave of Absence Discount: Not practicing for an extended period could allow for a leave-of-absence discount. Events that qualify you for this discount would be maternity leave, long-term illness or military leave, to name a few.
  • Claim Free Discount: Not having any claims can earn you policy discounts.
  • Risk Management Discount: With MedPro Group, you can get an additional policy discount by taking at least two CE hours of their free on-demand webinars each policy year (

Other things to update to ensure proper policy coverage are:

  • Your practice location(s) when moving, adding or removing new practice locations you are working at (not all locations may be approved).
  • The procedures you perform whether adding or removing (some may impact premium)­—the most common that effect premium are placing implants, partially or fully impacted third molar extractions and Botox.

Ask questions with your agent whenever you are unsure. It’s better to ask and not need to make a change, rather than not have coverage because you didn’t inquire. MDIS offers multiple options for malpractice insurance for dentists, but we believe we have the superior option when it comes to protecting our clients with MedPro Group. MDIS has been partnered with MedPro Group for more than 20 years and know the value it provides to our dentists.

Contact Jerri for questions on malpractice coverage or to arrange for a quick a review of your current coverage. Call 573-469-7000 or email Jerri. MDIS is the wholly-owned insurance subsidiary of MDA. MDIS was created by dentists, for dentists to provide honest answers, practice solutions and personal service. Visit their website or Solutions Center listing. This article also appeared in the Focus MDA 2023 Summer issue.

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