Royal College of
Dental Surgeons of Ontario
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Sexual Abuse Complaints

If you think you have experienced sexual abuse by an Ontario dentist, please contact the College at 1-800-565-4591 or via email at complaints@rcdso.org.

RCDSO investigates all allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. We recognize that reporting these allegations can be difficult. We have a number of supports in place to assist people who report these concerns.

We offer a confidential support program for anyone who contacts the College to express concerns about sexual misconduct by a dentist. This program is provided free of charge by an independent expert. Learn more about this program. 

We also provide funding for therapy and counselling for patients making allegations of sexual abuse by a dentist as required by the Regulated Health Professions Act. 

In addition, if the matter progresses to a discipline hearing, we provide some funding for independent legal advice if needed. 

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse is a breach of professional boundaries between patient and dentist and is a misuse of power. The patient-dentist relationship is based on trust. Sexual abuse by a dentist violates that trust and is never acceptable.

Sexual abuse or misconduct includes inappropriate comments, gestures or behaviour such as:

  • saying something sexually suggestive
  • kissing, hugging or touching of a sexual nature
  • making sexualized comments about appearance or clothing
  • making sexual comments or jokes
  • touching or asking for touching of a sexual manner
  • sexual intercourse
  • asking personal questions, such as asking about personal intimate relationships
  • sending sexualized jokes by email
  • displaying inappropriate materials in the office or on a computer, such as sexualized photographs or videos, or cartoons of a sexual nature.

All of this may be considered sexual abuse of a patient by a dentist.

What are boundary violations?

Boundaries between a dentist and the patient define the professional role. Dentists should consider where a particular action is a legitimate part of their role. Unwanted contact by social media, asking a patient out on a date, inappropriate personal disclosure by a dentist or asking a patient about their religion, personal life and politics are some examples of what may be considered boundary violations. Boundary violations can be the first step toward increased familiarity with the patient and may lead to sexual abuse.

My dentist violated patient-dentist boundaries or engaged in sexual misconduct or abuse. What do I do?

Please contact the College. As the regulator of Ontario dentists, it is our responsibility to investigate your concerns. The College’s mandate is to put patients first. We are here to listen to your concerns and investigate all complaints.

What concerns does the College investigate?

The College investigates all concerns related to boundary issues, sexual misconduct and abuse raised by patients, staff members and others.

Who do I tell?

You can contact the College to discuss your concerns and/or make a complaint. Our staff will explain what happens during an investigation and will answer your questions.

You don’t have to give your name to our staff if you don’t want to. You can go over what happened, and find out about the College’s processes and what to expect.

If you decide to file a formal complaint, you are contacted by an investigator who is trained and experienced in working with patients who’ve been sexually abused. You’ll have an opportunity to meet in person, regardless of where you live in the province. You may bring someone along with you for support.

The College takes all complaints seriously. As part of our role to protect the public, we investigate all complaints thoroughly.

If you don’t want to file a formal complaint, there are other ways to share information with the College without getting involved in a formal process. You can talk to us about these options.

What happens when I file a complaint?

As with all complaints, your concerns are carefully investigated. The College investigator will likely interview you and other witnesses, if any. The investigator will explain what will happen during an investigation and answer all of your questions. Throughout the process, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the status of the investigation.

Once the investigation is complete, we’ll send you a copy of the investigation results. A College committee will then review the results and make a decision. In some cases, the committee may decide to hold a hearing. In those cases, you may have to appear at the hearing. Again, your investigator will review all of this with you and the College has resources available to support you through this process.

Lear more about how complaints are handled, what’s involved and the possible decisions are available.

Why should I tell the College?

The College relies on patients to tell us when things aren’t right. That’s what helps us protect you. Most of the time, we learn about sexual abuse from people who make complaints.

Everyone has their own reasons for contacting the College.

Incidents of sexual abuse often are not isolated. By telling the College what happened, you may also be helping others.

What kind of support is available to me?

We understand that discussing details and answering questions about sexual abuse or misconduct can be very difficult. That is why we offer a special support program provided by a regulated health professional with expertise in sexual abuse matters. Your investigator will explain the details.

In addition, once a matter involving sexual misconduct has been referred to the College’s Discipline Committee, the College can provide funding for legal advice by a lawyer with expertise dealing with individuals testifying about sexual abuse.

You can also find a list of organizations that provide support services or have information about local community services.

Is there funding for therapy and counselling?

Yes. If you are a patient and have been sexually abused by a dentist, there is funding available for therapy and counselling.

What about confidentiality?

If you decide to complain, you do have to give us your name. As part of our complaints process, we send the dentist a copy of your complaint, which includes your name, for a response. You receive a copy of the dentist’s response too.

If the process continues to a hearing your name will not be included on the notice of hearing posted on our website. In addition, the College seeks a publication ban to protect your identity at this public hearing stage of the process.