Originally dentists were required to practice dentistry only using their personal names as registered with the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario (College). However, dentists are now permitted to carry on dentistry using a practice name other than their personal names.
Before using a practice name, that name must be registered at the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (Ministry), as required by the Ontario Business Names Act (BNA). The fundamental requirement of the BNA is straightforward. No individual shall carry on business or identify his or her business to the public other than his or her own name unless the name is registered under the BNA. The same restriction applies to corporations, including dentistry professional corporations. The name registration at the Ministry is valid for five years and must be renewed every five years.
A practice name is not a separate legal entity but rather a business style. The BNA requires that when carrying on business using a practice name, the practice name and the person’s name (or your dentistry professional corporation if it owns your dental practice) be set out in all contracts, invoices, negotiable instruments and orders involving goods or services issued or made by the person.
Before using a practice name, that name must also be registered at the College. Depending on the practice name, such name might require approval by the College’s Executive Committee before its use is permitted.
No individual shall carry on business or identify his or her business to the public other than his or her own name unless the name is registered under the BNA.
Note that generic names that do not contain a descriptive element would not be considered a practice name (for example ‘dental centre’, ‘dental clinic’ or ‘and associates’) but the principal dentist is still required to notify the College in writing of the names and certificate numbers of all dentists who practice at the location. Similarly, the principal dentist is required to notify the College of any changes in the dentists who practice at the location within 30 days of the change.
However, if you add a descriptive element or word, then the name becomes a specific practice name and requires formal registration. Adding, for example, the word “Main Street” to any of those generic names will create that descriptive element and trigger registration requirements.
As outlined in the College’s Practice Name Advisory, if the practice name is “reasonably referable to the location of the practice” then registration is required, but approval of the College’s Executive Committee is not required. Names such as Bay Street Dental Centre or Main Street Dental Office would be acceptable under this category. Often a dental practice is located in a shopping mall or plaza, so if the practice was located on Bay Street at the Bay Plaza, a name such as Bay Plaza Dental Centre would also be acceptable.
However, any other practice name that does not refer to the practice location does require Executive Committee approval. As indicated in the Regulations of the Dentistry Act, 1991, the College will not approve a practice name that contains information that:
(i) may be potentially misleading,(ii) is not verifiable by facts,(iii) makes comparisons to other dental practices or dentists, or(iv) is likely to create expectations of favourable results or appeals to the public’s fears.
It is very important to note that a practice name must also comply with the advertising regulations and the College’s Practice Advisory on Professional Advertising. Due to space limitations this article does not discuss the advertising regulations. However a practical tip for dentists who wish to advertise is as follows:
The College will offer advice about any proposed advertisement. If there is any doubt regarding the propriety of your proposed advertisement, please send a copy of the proposed advertisement to the College for their review and comment. This is one of the many invaluable services provided by the College to its member dentists.
When purchasing a dental practice, typically the purchaser acquires the rights of the vendor to continue to use the practice name associated with the practice. This involves filing at both the Ministry and the College. Your lawyer can assist you in ensuring proper registrations are completed and required approvals are obtained.PA
David Rosenthal is a senior lawyer with Spiegel Rosenthal Professional Corporation whose practice is devoted to corporate, commercial and business law, with special emphasis on advising dentists. He can be reached at (416) 865-0736 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.