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Definition of Risk

RiskRisk, in the context of dental practice, can be defined as the possibility of an adverse event occurring that would expose the dental team, patients or visitors to the practice to harm.

Risks exist in all aspects of practice activity, and can be divided into two broad categories.

  • Clinical risk: the possibility that the well-being of a patient or staff member is compromised as a result of the provision of dental care.
  • Clinical risk may include:
    • ineffective infection prevention control precautions
    • inappropriate PPE
    • radiation protection
    • COSHH, including hazardous substances, e.g. mercury
    • legionella
    • latex and other allergies.


  • Non clinical risk: the possibility that any of a wide range of events related to, for example, administrative errors or problems associated with the premises or surroundings, may occur.
  • Non-clinical risk may include:
    • patient communication e.g. consent, child and vulnerable adult protection
    • record-keeping, including medical histories
    • work equipment failure
    • staff recruitment and employment e.g. recording CPD, registration, indemnity, immunisation, Disclosure Scotland PVG scheme
    • personal well-being, health, stress and fitness to practise
    • financial management
    • health and safety e.g. slips, fire safety
    • premises
    • dental team communication
    • quality improvement

There will be overlap between these two broad categories of risk.