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Are Dental Referral Forms Really That Important?

Deliver a better patient experience with informative and clear dental referral forms. Learn how to create forms that benefit the patient, receiving practice, and your own team.

Dental Intelligence


November 3, 2022

Dentists dedicate their careers to providing exceptional dental care. Although dentists can offer a wide range of treatments, there are some cases where a patient benefits from seeing a specialist. 

Whether the patient needs oral surgery or orthodontic treatment, dentists can refer them to specialists to receive the care they need. To do this effectively, dental offices rely on dental referral forms. 

Referral forms act as a guide for the patient and the receiving practice. Traditionally, dental offices filled out paper forms and gave them to patients or mailed them to the receiving practice. These days, online dental forms make the process significantly easier and faster.

Dental referral forms are integral to a practice's operations. Here's why.  

Why Does Your Dental Office Use Referrals?

Your dental office likely uses referral forms to refer patients to other medical specialists. These forms contain basic information about the patient, their dental issue, and a potential treatment option that requires specialized care.

Similarly, other medical professionals can refer their patients to your office. Receiving referral patients typically requires the same documents, as they help you better understand the patient's condition or concerns.

What Information Should Referral Forms Include?

Referrals act as a communication medium for a patient and two different providers. As such, these forms should contain information that pertains to each party. 

Regardless of the reason for the referral, all forms should contain the name of your practice, the type of referral (oral surgery, orthodontics, etc.), the patient's name, and their information.

Depending on the reason for the referral, you can also include additional documents that give the receiving practice a better idea of the patient's case. For example, if your dental office is referring a patient to an oral surgeon, the dental referral forms could include X-ray or digital images of the patient's mouth. Doing so saves the oral surgeon and patient time by delivering updated images rather than requiring the receiving office to capture their own.

Before creating and delivering a referral, it is vital to review everything with the patient during an initial appointment. 

Although many offices now use digital forms that go directly to the specialist's office, it is still vital for the patient to understand everything. Taking the time to explain who you are referring them to, why, and what they can expect can improve the experience for everyone involved.

Are There Referral Guidelines?

Dentists and every other medical professional have an obligation to provide ethical treatment for patients. Part of this responsibility is completing documents correctly, including dental referral forms. 

When completing a referral form, it is vital to follow the American Dental Association's (ADA) General Guidelines for Referring Patients and Code of Ethics1.

In short, ADA guidelines state that dentists should make referrals based on the receiving practice's education, training, and experience rather than personal preferences. Meanwhile, the Code of Ethics states that all dentists should follow ethical practices to provide adequate, professional care.

How Are Digital Forms Better Than Paper Referrals?

Although paper forms were once an effective way to deliver referrals, they are becoming increasingly outdated. 

For instance, sending paper referrals requires significantly more time to reach the other practice than digital ones. This extended time frame impacts patient care and office efficiency. 

Additionally, receiving practices often struggled to decipher illegible handwriting. Communicating clear, understandable information is crucial for referrals, making this a frustrating problem. 

However, digital forms eliminate this issue and send referrals directly to specialists. As a result, all parties enjoy clear communication, and patients can book appointments sooner.

Spend More Time with Your Patients and Ease Your Team's Workload

Patient referrals help you extend care by sending your patient to a specialist that can provide the particular care they need. To benefit the patient, receiving practice, and your own team, you need informative and clear referral forms. 

Instead of taking a step back in innovation using paper forms, embrace technology and use online referrals to your advantage. A digital referral for treatment is more clear, can contain more detailed information, and reaches the receiving practice sooner. As a result, you can deliver better patient care and assist with office team's workload.

At Dental Intelligence, we can help you spend more time with your patients and less time navigating paperwork. From digital forms for your patients to Call Insight for your front desk team, we have everything you need to streamline operations and provide exceptional dental care. 

Curious to see how digital dental referral forms can transform patient care? Contact us at Dental Intelligence today to schedule a demo.


1 The ADA Principles of Ethics and Code of Conduct

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