Addressing Sexual Abuse

Addressing Sexual Abuse and Sexual Harassment

Registered Dental Technologists (RDTs) are committed to providing quality services in a safe, ethical and professional manner. Dental technologists, as regulated health professionals, are expected to set a high standard of behaviour in the work environment.

The College has a zero-tolerance policy on sexual abuse, harassment and workplace violence. Sexual abuse or harassment of a patient or non-patient (client of RDT or co-workers of RDT) by a dental technologist is unacceptable and such actions are subject to investigation for professional misconduct.


What is Sexual Abuse?

“Sexual abuse” is very broadly defined in the legislation, to include not only physical actions but also behaviour or remarks. Sexual abuse of a patient, as defined in the RHPA’s Health Profession Procedural Code, occurs when a dental technologist:

  • has sexual intercourse or other forms of physical sexual relations with a patient
  • touches a patient in a sexual manner
  • behaves in a sexual manner toward a patient (e.g., touching a patient’s shoulder or hand unnecessarily and in a manner that implies a sexual interest in the patient)
  • makes remarks of a sexual nature to a patient (e.g., commenting on the size of a patient’s breasts or genitals)

This definition means that a member of the CDTO cannot have a sexual relationship with a patient, even if the patient consents. This includes spouses. Registrants are currently not permitted to treat their spouses. For the purposes of sexual abuse, a person is still considered to be a patient of the Registrant for one year after the person stopped receiving treatment from the Registrant. As such, it may be considered sexual abuse if a Registrant, within one year of ending the professional relationship, enters into a sexual relationship (even if consensual) with a former patient.

The Code does allow touching, behaviour and remarks that are of a clinical nature and that are appropriate to the services rendered.

The College has extended this definition of sexual abuse to non-patients such as dentists who are clients and co-workers.


What is Sexual Harassment? 

In addition, the College considers sexual harassment as an act of professional misconduct, defined as unwelcome sexual conduct when:

  • the conduct has the purpose or the effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment/relation; and/or
  • submission to such conduct is either an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment; and/or
  • submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as a basis for making employment decisions.

What one person finds friendly and kind, may seem too casual or intimate and make another person uncomfortable. Each person’s level of comfort with physical contact and informal ways of speaking can be different. Learn more about appropriate conduct for a dental technologist in the Patient Relations Program Policy and Guidelines. 


About the Patient Relations Program

The Patient Relations Program exists to enhance and promote the professional relationship between dental technologists, patients and non-patients by providing education and resources to assist all groups. Administered by the Patient Relations Committee and required under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA), the Program helps patients and non-patients understand what to expect from a dental technologist and what to do if they feel they have not received appropriate care or have been sexually abused.

The Patient Relations Program includes educational requirements for Registrants, guidelines for the conduct of Registrants, training for the College’s Council and staff, and the provision of information to the public to prevent and deal with sexual abuse.


Taking Action Against Sexual Abuse and Harassment

What should you do if you suspect sexual abuse by a dental technologist?

Please know that it is not your fault. The dental technologist is responsible for understanding and maintaining an appropriate, professional relationship. Please contact the Coordinator of Professional Conduct with your concerns regarding sexual abuse or harassment by a registrant of the College at 416-438-5003. 

Allegations and complaints regarding sexual abuse and harassment are handled through the College’s complaints process. College staff receive training on handling allegations of sexual abuse and harassment to ensure all enquiries and complaints are dealt with sensitively. Your privacy will be respected.

If an employer or a health professional becomes aware that a dental technologist may have sexually abused or harassed a patient, the law requires that they report that abuse to the CDTO. The patient’s name is not forwarded to the CDTO as part of the mandatory report unless that patient gives the employer or health professional written permission to identify them as the victim of such abuse.

Review the Mandatory Reporting page to understand the reporting requirements of RDTs.

What happens if a dental technologist is found to have committed sexual abuse?

According to the legislative framework, if proven sexual abuse involves certain sexual acts, then the registrant’s certificate of registration must be revoked.

These acts include:

  • sexual intercourse
  • genital to genital, genital to anal, oral to genital, or oral to anal contact
  • masturbation of the registrant by, or in the presence of, the patient
  • masturbation of the patient by the Registrant
  • encouraging of the patient by the Registrant to masturbate in the presence of the Registrant. 
  • Touching of a sexual nature of the patient’s genitals, anus, breasts or buttocks.
  • Other conduct of a sexual nature prescribed in regulations made pursuant to clause 43 (1) (u) of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991.

Further, a registrant is not allowed to apply for reinstatement to the College for five years. At the end of five years, a Registrant is required to prove to a panel of the Discipline Committee that they are no longer a risk to the public should they be allowed to register with the College again.


Funding for Therapy and Counseling

The Patient Relations Committee is responsible for developing criteria, managing and administering funding for therapy and counselling of patients who are sexually abused by dental technologists.

Individuals can access funding for therapy and counseling as soon as a complaint or report is made alleging that they were sexually abused by a Registrant while as a patient. A person’s eligibility for funding is not affected by an appeal of the Discipline Committee’s finding. The patient is entitled to choose any therapist or counsellor subject to some restrictions specified in the RHPA. The patient will be advised of these restrictions when funding is made available.


For more information on the College of Dental Technologists of Ontario: