Alternative Dispute Resolution

What is ADR and when is it available? 

When the College receives a complaint, we review it carefully before deciding how to proceed. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) may be an option for some complaints. The College reviews several factors in determining whether it is appropriate for ADR. 

Complaints involving little or no risk of patient harm or public safety are candidates for ADR. 

College staff will contact both parties initially to explore their interest in the process. Once both parties have agreed to participate, the College retains independent mediators who facilitate the resolution meeting. The mediation will usually be online. They can take place over a few days by shuttle mediation or with both parties present at the same time.  

Why use ADR? 

One of the benefits is that you and the dentist reach a mutually satisfactory resolution, not one created or imposed on the parties by a reviewing Committee. You and the dentist control what resolution you reach.  

It is free: the College pays for the costs of the mediator. However, any costs that you incur by participating in the mediation (for example, internet service, travel, or time off work) are not covered by the College. 

Mediation is often quicker than an investigation.


After submitting your concerns and are reviewed by College staff, you may be offered ADR as an option. If you and the dentist both consent, the College staff will put you in contact with a mediator. Mediation can only proceed if both you and the dentist agree to try the process.  

Once both parties have agreed to participate, the College will ask you to provide information in advance of the ADR meeting outlining your goals for the mediation. The dentist must also provide information on what terms may be agreeable to them. Furthermore, the College may obtain relevant dental records to assist in the process. The matter may be investigated if the College receives information that makes ADR unsuitable.  

The mediator will review the information collected and work with you and the dentist to help you reach a resolution.  

Depending on the issues and your relationship with the dentist, the mediation may be held face-to-face (usually online). 

If you and the dentist can reach an agreement (a resolution), the College must review the proposed resolution. Given the College’s mandate to protect the public, the College always looks to see that the resolution is in the public interest. If the resolution is approved, the case is closed. If the resolution is not approved, the College will investigate the complaint. Most resolutions are approved. 

What types of resolutions are possible? 

You and the dentist have an opportunity to clarify misunderstandings that may have occurred.  

In some cases, there may be an acknowledgment of your concerns, an apology from the dentist, or an offer to do things differently in the future. Where the mediation identifies an area that needs improvement, the dentist may offer to complete some education or a reflective exercise to improve their practice. The dentist may agree to make changes to their procedures and policies and share the information with their staff. You could also learn that the dentist acted appropriately in the circumstances and acknowledge that no further action is required. 

In a few cases, a small financial remedy (like a waiver or a refund of fees) may be available.  

Your role in the ADR process 

For ADR to work, you need to: 

  • Consent to participate in the process 
  • Engage in the mediation  
  • Complete any requested forms 
  • Respond in a timely way to requests from College staff or the mediator 


ADR is time limited. Under the law, you and the dentist have only 60 days to resolve the case. The Registrar of the College may extend the timeline to a maximum of 120 days if the Registrar thinks it is in the public interest to do so. 

If the deadline is passed, the ADR process must end, and the College will investigate the complaint.

Withdrawing Consent 

At any time, you or the dentist can withdraw consent to participate in ADR during the resolution process. If you or the dentist withdraws consent, the resolution process ends, and the complaint will be investigated by the College.  

ADR is not about assigning blame  

The ADR process is designed to protect the public by improving the practice of dentistry. It is not intended to punish or discipline dentists. By taking part in ADR, a dentist is not admitting any wrongdoing.