How to Obtain Access to Your Dental Records

You're not alone if you've ever felt the urge to sneak a peek at your records as soon as your dentist leaves the room. But there's no reason to feel guilty for snooping or afraid of getting caught. It's your information, and under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, you're entitled to not only your dental records but all of your medical records.

Patient and dentist talking
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Your Right to Obtain Access to Your Dental Records

Thanks to HIPAA, only you have the right to your records, and all you have to do is ask. You can visit the dentist to ask in person, but many experts recommend making the request in writing, so you and your healthcare provider have a record of it.

It's important to know that as a patient, you have the right to a copy of your recordnot the original. Your original record belongs to your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider cannot deny you a copy of your records if you haven't paid for the services you've received. However, they might charge a fee for preparing and mailing the records.

Getting Hard Copy vs. Electronic Records

There are two types of records: old-school, hard copy records, and electronic medical records (EMRs). HIPAA was instrumental in the development of EMRs. Electronic records allow information to be shared securely and seamlessly.

Between a hard copy and an electronic record, there is no "better" option. It's whatever you prefer. Keep in mind that medical records can be hundreds of pages long, so be selective about what information you want.

What You Can Do With Your Dental Records

Once you have your dental records, what can you do with them? HIPAA clearly defines how you can use your information. Here are a few liberties:

  • Request a copy of your dental information for your own records.
  • Request to have corrections made to your dental records.
  • Ask how your information is being used and shared, if at all.
  • Decide whether or not your health information is shared with marketing agencies.
  • If your information was shared, ask for a report explaining its specific purpose.

What Is HIPAA?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The law, enacted in 1996, is an effort to simplify the healthcare system and ensure patient security. It essentially ensures the privacy of your medical information.

Some healthcare providers have taken additional steps to control access to private patient information, like using an electronic keycard system. Ask your healthcare provider what steps they've taken and plan to take to better comply with HIPAA.

All healthcare providers, health organizations, and government health plans that use, store, maintain or transmit patient healthcare information are required to comply with HIPAA. Small, self-administered health organizations are excluded from this law.

1 Source
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  1. US Department of Health & Human Services. Your Rights Under HIPAA.

By Shawn Watson
Shawn Watson is an orthodontic dental assistant and writer with over 10 years of experience working in the field of dentistry.