Dental Offices as Public Accommodation

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 2010 states that a dental office is a public accommodation. This means that dental offices cannot discriminate against persons with disabilities who use service dogs to mitigate their disabilities.Even though most of the dental offices are small businesses that are privately owned and operated, they are still obligated to provide reasonable accommodations and access to their facilities for people who have disabilities and use service dogs.

Further defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 2010 is: "Hospitals, medical or dental offices, and other healthcare provider sites, as places of public accommodation, must permit the use of a service animal for persons with a disability. Like other places of public accommodation, they may enforce "no pets" policies in certain areas (such as operating rooms) if they can show that permitting service animals in would result in a fundamental alteration, health or safety hazard to those areas.”

This means that if a dentist can show that the use or presence of a service dog would pose a significant health or safety risk in designated areas of the dental practice, a service dog could legally be excluded in those areas. In a general practice dental office that does routine procedures it would be the dentist’s decision whether or not a service dog could be in the area designated for the procedure, or on the person with a disability having the procedure done.

Prophylactic procedures, routine fillings could be considered safe if a service dog would be in the area, or on the person having the person procedures done. However, when it comes to more invasive procedures such as oral surgery, it would be legal for the dentist to determine the safety risk for the dentist, staff, patient, as well as the service dog to have the service dog in the immediate area or on the person during the procedures.

Patients with disabilities who use service dogs can request that a backup handler be allowed to hold the service dog in the waiting room during the procedure and bringing the service dog to the handler after the procedures been completed.

(Americans with Disabilities Act Title III Technical Assistance Manual, 4.2300)." https://www.dentistrytoday.com/regulatory/1758. Also refer to: Americans with Disabilities Act: questions & answers. J Am Dent Assoc. 1992;123(suppl):1-12.

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