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ADA Survey: Employee Theft in the Dental Practice

Hand reaching into trap to grab money

Employee theft: despite being a reality in every industry, it’s something no one wants to talk about or admit has happened in their business. Yet it happens in all types of industries, including dental practices. 

The most common types of theft reported in the dental practice include: taking cash; padding the number of hours worked; taking products such as electric toothbrushes or whitening kits; and providing free or discounted treatments to family members and/or friends without the dentist’s prior approval. 

According to a 2018 survey conducted by the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Council on Dental Practice (CDP), nearly 49% of the dental practices that responded to a survey on theft by employees reported having experienced employee theft; nearly 46% of those practices reported experiencing theft or embezzlement more than once. The survey results revealed that theft was committed by employees in various jobs and with varying lengths of employment. 

Some actions that may help safeguard practices from theft by employees include:

1. Managing Finances

  • Downloading credit card charges into the accounting software.
  • Comparing bank deposits with practice software collections.
  • Reviewing payroll before it’s processed.
  • Redesigning the practice’s adjustment list.
  • Having the owner dentist make all bank deposits.

2. Managing the Dental Team

  • Cross training employees for multiple duties.
  • Creating a professional employee manual.
  • Holding weekly team meetings.
  • Conducting doctor-to-doctor reference checks before hiring new employees.
  • Conducting background checks on any employee who handles money.

3. Managing Systems, Software and Security

  • Regularly reviewing reports available through the practice’s software and accounting programs. 
  • Limiting and tracking access to software systems. 
  • Changing the practice’s daily and monthly systems and procedures.
  • Hiring a practice software specialist to ensure security controls.
  • Working with a consultant to oversee changes in systems.
  • Installing a security system in the practice.

The most frequently reported actions in response to investigations of theft/embezzlement included firing the employee(s) and filing a report with law enforcement. The majority of civil court cases were settled in favor of the dentist/dental practice. Individuals convicted of theft most frequently received sentences requiring them to: make restitution for the amount embezzled; serve probation; serve jail time; pay court fines; or perform community service.

The full report of the 2018 CDP Survey on Employee Theft in the Dental Practice is available for download by ADA members only. Please contact CDP staff at with questions about this information.

The survey was initially emailed to a random sample of 19,991 professionally active licensed dentists, including those registered as general practitioners and specialists and ADA members and non-members. The initial survey invitation was emailed to the sample on September 24, 2018. Reminder emails were sent to non-respondents on September 27 and again on October 2. Data collection ended October 6, 2018. After excluding bounced emails, the email invitation went to 18,544 dentists and was completed by 751 individuals, giving it an overall adjusted response rate of 4.05%, which is typical for an online survey of a random sample of dentists or dental practices on a topic of specific interest in dentistry.

Disclaimer: These materials are intended to provide helpful information to dentists and dental team members. They are in no way a substitute for actual professional advice based upon your unique facts and circumstances. This content is not intended or offered, nor should it be taken, as legal or other professional advice. You should always consult with your own professional advisors (e.g. attorney, accountant, insurance carrier). To the extent ADA has included links to any third party web site(s), ADA intends no endorsement of their content and implies no affiliation with the organizations that provide their content. Further, ADA makes no representations or warranties about the information provided on those sites.