Dental Practice Records Retention and Destruction Policies

Dentists and their staff maintain a significant amount of confidential, sensitive data on their patients. From payment information to health records, there are a lot of records to keep track of. When patients become inactive, move to a different practice, or simply as time passes, how do you know which records to keep and which ones to throw away?


State laws may vary, so check with your state’s dental board for specific retention periods in your jurisdiction. Your CPA is also an excellent resource for dealing with financial and tax records. The staff at Dental CPAs is always here to answer your questions on record retention and dental practice management.


Records Retention Schedule


Records Retention Period
A/R and A/P ledger 7 years
Monthly bank statements 3 years
Cancelled checks (some exceptions) 7 years
Expired contracts and leases 7 years
Duplicate deposit books and slips 3 or 6 years
Expired insurance policies 3 years
Products, materials, and supply inventories 7 years
Petty cash vouchers 3 years
Vouchers for payments to vendors and employees 7 years
Employee applications 3 years
Personnel records 7 years
Payroll records 7 years
Time sheets 7 years
Worker’s compensation records 5 years
Patient schedules 7 years
Patient billing or fee statements 7 years
Third-party insurance claims and explanation of benefits 7 years
Accident reports 7 years
Controlled substance copy 2 years
Routine patient or vendor correspondence 2 years
Medicare billing records 7 years
OSHA records 5 years past the year to which it applies


There are several records you should keep permanently. These include:

  • Accountant’s annual report
  • Capital asset records
  • Cash receipt journal
  • Cancelled checks for important transactions, like taxes or property
  • Contracts, mortgages, and leases (active)
  • Deeds, mortgages, and bills of sale
  • Depreciation schedules
  • Financial statements
  • General ledgers
  • Income tax returns
  • Insurance records and claims
  • List of accounts
  • Retirement plan records
  • Training manuals
  • Important correspondence
  • Legal agreements


Thanks to the American Dental Association for the above information.


Keeping Your Dental Practice Records Safe

Healthcare organizations face a growing threat from cyber-attacks. Hackers know the value of the information you store about your patients. Keep these best practices in mind when dealing with confidential patient or practice data.


Online Records

You should have a policy of backing up online data at least daily. At least periodically, test your recovery procedures and the quality of your back-up data. As a rule, do not email electronic records. Keeping electronic dental health records safe is not just good business practice; it’s a HIPAA requirement. With that in mind, make sure your firewalls, data encryption, and antivirus software are updated and consider adding additional protective measures like intrusion detection software.


Hard Copy Records

Storing patient records on-site is fine, if you take steps to protect the records in case of fire or flood, and you can easily retrieve records if needed. If you store hard copy records off-site, use a trusted and reputable document storage company. It’s still your responsibility to ensure patient records are kept confidential, so if you do store patient records off-site, you must notify patients first.


Document Destruction Policies

Shredding or incinerating are the only two approved methods of destroying hard copy confidential documents, including financial data and patient charts. X-rays, photographs, and models can be thrown in the garbage once all patient identification has been carefully removed. X-rays should never be burned. Do not recycle – just dispose!


Since most health records are kept online, electronic document destruction requires more attention. You should first delete all online data. Then, ensure all back-ups and archives are erased. Alternatively, you may physically destroy the device if electronic information is stored on it; for example, a scanner or fax machine.


Whether hard copy or electronic, you should keep a log of which documents are destroyed, and when.


Dental CPAs can answer your specific questions about document retention and destruction. E-mail us anytime.